Seven civilians were killed during an alleged open fire by the security forces to disperse an unruly crowd that had gathered near the site of an encounter in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Saturday, police said.
The incident took place at Sirnoo village in the morning when the security forces laid siege to a locality based on intelligence reports about the presence of three militants, including an Army deserter – Zahoor Ahmad Thoker, in the area, police officials said.
Though the encounter ended in 25 minutes with the killing of the three militants, the security forces had a tough time as people started climbing onto Army vehicles, the officials said.
Seven civilians were killed and dozens others injured, including a youth whose condition was stated to be critical. The dead also included a 13-year-old schoolboy. The firing drew condemnation from the separatists as well as mainstream politicians.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah termed it a “massacre” and moderate Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq asked people to march towards the army’s Valley headquarters in Srinagar, daring the government to kill all of them.
Omar tweeted: “7 dead. There is no explanation for this excessive use of force, none whatsoever. This is a massacre & that’s the only way to describe it.”
They said warning shots were fired but that did not deter the mob, forcing the security forces to open fire at the civilians.
Thoker had gone missing from an Army unit in the Gantmulla area of north kashmir’s Baramulla district in July last year. He had decamped with his service rifle and three magazines and had joined the militant ranks.
The security forces said Thoker was involved in several killings in Pullman district. The officials said an army jawan lost his life in the gunfight, while two other soldiers were critical.
Authorities have discontinued mobile internet facility in entire south Kashmir comprising four districts for the meanwhile.