11 killed in J&K gunfight, clashes

SRINAGAR:

Eleven people were killed on Saturday in a gunfight and subsequent clashes in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district, in one of the bloodiest days in the valley's recent history.

The gunfight erupted in Sirnoo village as security personnel surrounded the area after receiving a tip-off about militants holed up in the area.

Three militants and a soldier were killed in the gunfight, the police said.

Immediately after the gunfight, scores of civilian protesters clashed with the security forces who used firearms and pellets to control the agitating mob.

Two youths identified as Amir Ahmad and Abid Hussain were declared brought dead in a district hospital where they were taken for treatment of gun shot injuries. Four other civilian protesters succumbed to their wounds, authorities said.

The seventh civilian protester died in a hospital in Srinagar, according to the police.

Reports coming in from the area said that more than 35 protesters have been injured in the clashes. Three of them were critical after receiving gunshot wounds.

Authorities have imposed curfew in Pulwama town and deployed additional security personnel to maintain law and order in the wake of the civilian deaths.

Mobile internet services were suspended in the district while rail services between the Kashmir Valley and Bannihal town in the Jammu region were cancelled.

Reacting to the tragedy, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said in a tweet: "Another blood soaked weekend in Kashmir. Six protesters killed, one soldier killed in the line of duty. Together with the three militants from this morning's encounter that's 10 dead. Reports of many injured at the encounter site. What a horrible day!"

Omar slammed Governor Satya Pal Malik's administration for its alleged failure to ensure that civilian casualties are avoided during gunfights.

"The administration of Governor Malik has one task and one task only - to focus on the security of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and restore peace to a troubled valley. Sadly it appears that's the only thing the administration is not doing. Publicity campaigns and full page ads don't bring peace," he said.

Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti also expressed serious concern over the day's incident.

"How long are we going to shoulder the coffins of our youngsters? So many civilians killed today post encounter in Pulwama. No country can win a war by killing its own people. I strongly condemn these killings, and once again appeal for efforts to stop this blood bath," she said in a statement.

Senior separatist leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq called the incident "a massacre of Kashmiris" and announced a three-day valley-wide protest shutdown beginning on Saturday.

"#PulwamaMassacre,Bullets and pellets rain! As government of India has decided to kill Kashmiris through its #ArmedForces who control us, the JRL (Joint Resistance Leadership) and people will march towards Badami Bagh Army cantonment on Monday, Dec 17, to ask to kill all of us at one time rather than killing us daily," he said in a tweet.

He also appealed to the world community to take cognizance of the serious situation in Kashmir.

Other political leaders including Ghulam Hassan Mir of Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN) also condemned the civilian killings.