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A six-year-old girl was killed and her seven-year-old brother injured after they were hit by stray bullets during an encounter between militants and security forces in Hyhama village, in Kupwara district, on Wednesday morning. Police said three Lashkar-e-Toiba militants were killed while a constable was injured in the firing. The six-hour encounter followed a cordon and search operation launched by a joint team of 41 Rashtriya Rifles soldiers and the J&K Police Special Operation Group in the village, in Jugtiyal area of Kupwara district, on Tuesday night. The village is near dense forests and about 10-12 kilometres from the Line of Control.
The militants opened fire when security personnel tried to enter a house. Police said the six-year-old girl, Kaneeza, died after being hit by a stray bullet. Her brother, Faisal, who was injured in the firing, is reported to be in a stable condition. A police constable identified as Danish Ahmad, the guard of Additional SP, Kupwara, was injured in the firing. “A girl was hit by a stray bullet 100 metres away from the encounter spot, in another house. She was killed while her brother was injured,’’ said Inspector General of Police Javeed Mujtaba Geelani. He confirmed that three militants were killed, and efforts were on to ascertain their identities.
An army spokesman said the operation was still underway. Police sources said the militants could have been in the area to meet another group of militants. The death of the minor girl evoked sharp criticism across the Kashmir, with mainstream and separatist leaders condemning the killing.