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Budgam encounter: Three civilians and a militant killed, separatists call for strike in Kashmir

Three civilians were killed in security forces’ action against protesters near an encounter site in Budgam district in Kashmir during an anti-militancy operation which ended with the killing of the lone militant. “One militant has been killed and a weapon has been recovered from the scene of the encounter,” an army official said. The encounter has ended, a police official said adding that one para-trooper also sustained injuries.

Three civilians — all young men in their twenties — were killed while 18 others were injured in security forces’ action against a large number of protesters who pelted stones on the law enforcing personnel allegedly in a vain bid to help the holed-up militant escape. Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Durbugh area of Chadoora in the early hours on Tuesday following information about the presence of militants in the area, the police official said.

Meanwhile, DNA reported that 63 security personnel, including 43 from the CRPF and 20 from the state police, were injurd in stone-pelting by local mobs. One para-commando was injured in the 11-hour long operation too.

The mob, which was shouting pro-azadi and pro-militant slogans, pelted stones at the security forces to break the barricades. Security forces used smoke shells and pellet guns to disperse the mob. However, when that did not work, the forces opened fire.

The police official also said the search operation turned into a gunbattle after the militant opened firing on security forces. The slain civilians have been identified as Zahid Dar, Saqib Ahmad and Ishfaq Ahmad Wani. All of them had firearm injuries, the official said. Clashes between protesters and security forces were going on till reports last came in, he added. The trend of civilians assembling near encounter sites and engaging security forces in clashes emerged last year.

It has continued even after Army Chief Bipin Rawat warned the youth against interfering in anti-militancy operations and the state administration imposing Section 144 within three kilometre radius of the encounter site.

Meanwhile, separatists in Kashmir have called for a general strike on Wednesday against the killing of three civilians during protests near an encounter site in Budgam district and sought an impartial inquiry into the incident.

“There should be a complete strike tomorrow and peaceful protests after Friday prayers against the incident,” chairmen of both factions of Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik said in a joint statement in Srinagar. Two youths were killed when security forces, engaged in an encounter with militants at Durbugh village of Chadoora, opened fire to chase away protesters attempting to break the cordon around a house where militants had taken shelter.

The separatists alleged that the Chadoora incident was the outcome of the Army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s statement warning local youth against creating hurdles during anti-militancy operations early this year.

National Conference president Farooq Abdullah had blamed the Centre and state government for the “alarming situation” and advocated talks with all stakeholders.

“By choosing to turn a blind eye towards the unprecedented level of alienation and perpetual uncertainty in Kashmir both the Central Government of Narendra Modi and the state government of Mehbooba Mufti have compounded the situation in the Valley and pushed the youth into a corner,” Abdullah had said in a statement. He had said the political issue in Kashmir cannot be resolved through rhetoric, operational measures or development. “There is no alternative to talks. You have to talk to the people of Kashmir and the stakeholders of all shades of opinion with an honest intent to resolve the political issue,” Abdullah said.

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