A top commander of the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) was among three militants killed while a civilian died and a soldier martyred in an encounter which ensued during a Cordon and Search Operation (CASO) in south Kashmir district of Pulwama in the wee hours of Thursday.
Authorities have imposed curfew-like restrictions in main town Pulwama and adjoining areas besides suspended mobile internet service as a precautionary measure.
A police official said troops of Rashtriya Rifles (RR), CRPF and Special Operation Group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir police launched a joint search operation in village Dalipora, Pulwama, following a tip off about presence of militants in the wee hours.
'As the police and security forces were evacuating civilians from the neighbourhood area around the target house, the militant hiding there, fired indiscriminately,' he said.
'An Army soldier, identified as Sepoy Sandeep, attained martyrdom and one civilian Rayees Dar also lost his life in the exchange of fire," he said.
He said after the security forces retaliated, all the three militants were killed in the ensuing encounter.
'The bodies of the slain militants were retrieved and arms and ammunition was recovered from the site of encounter,' he added.
He said the slain militants were identified as Naseer Pandith of Kareemabad Pulwama, Umar Mir of Shopian. The third militant has been identified as Khalid, a Pakistani national.
According to the police records, he said the militants were affiliated with proscribed militant outfit JeM. 'They were wanted by law for their complicity in a series of militancy, including attack on security establishments and civilian atrocities,' he said.
He said as per police records, Naseer Pandith had a long history of terror crime records before joining militant organisation and several cases were registered against him for planning and executing militant attacks in the area.
'Pandith was also involved in the killing of a policeman Mohammad Yaqoob Shah of Pulwama in 2018 on the eve of Eid. He was also involved in some weapon snatching incidents reported from the area besides several cases were registered against him,' the official said.
Similarly, he said Khalid, who was operating as commander of JeM, was involved in several militant attacks on security establishments and civilian atrocities in the area. 'Many cases were registered against him. Umar Mir was also involved in several militant attacks and was part of groups responsible for attacks on security forces,' he said.
'Incriminating material, including arms and ammunition, was recovered from the site of encounter. All these material have been taken in the case records for further investigation and to probe their complicity in other terror crime cases,' he said, adding citizens are requested not to venture inside the encounter zone since such an area can prove dangerous due to stray explosive materials.
He said people are requested to cooperate with police till the area is completely sanitised and cleared of all the explosive materials if any.
Normal life was on Thursday crippled due to curfew imposed by authorities and spontaneous strike in parts of south Kashmir against the killing of the militants and the civilian.
Official sources said that curfew has been imposed in Pulwama town to maintain law and order following intense clashes between security forces and protestors, who hit the streets after the killing of the militants and the civilian. 'Security forces have been deployed in strength in sensitive areas in entire south Kashmir, particularly in Shopian and Pulwama, for security reasons,' they said.
Spontaneous shutdown was observed in Shopian, where shopkeepers downed shutters and traffic went off the roads as the news of the death of militants spread in the district. One of the slain militants is a resident of Shopian.