Six civilians killed in blast ahead of sanitisation at J&K encounter site

Explosion took place after three militants were gunned down by security forces.

Written by Adil Akhzer | Srinagar | Published: October 22, 2018 4:00:40 am
A villager cries during the funeral of Uzair Ahmad in Kulgam on Sunday. (Photo: AP)

Six civilians were killed in an explosion at an unsanitised encounter site at Laroo in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district on Sunday. Earlier, three militants were gunned down by the security forces during the encounter.

According to health officials, more than 30 people were injured in the explosion and the clashes between stone-throwing youths and security forces when the encounter was underway.

A statement by the Jammu & Kashmir government said, “…as per the reports, the civilians rushed to the site after the encounter was over, resulting in casualties in the blast as the area was yet to be sanitized.”

ADGP, Law and order, Muneer Ahmad Khan said that as per reports, six people died in the blast. “It is a very unfortunate incident. We have been requesting people not to go to encounter sites immediately after the encounter is over and till teams are allowed to diffuse the ammunition (at the site). Today’s unfortunate incident happened because there was no cooperation from the general public,” he said.

A Laroo resident told The Indian Express that a large number of people reached the area after the encounter broke out in the morning. Protesters clashed with security personnel in an attempt to help the militants escape, he said.

“The Army and police left the area without clearing the explosives from the house. When people started removing the debris, there was a huge blast,” said the Laroo resident.

Kulgam Deputy Commissioner Dr Shameem Ahmad Wani identified the victims as Ubaid Laway, Tajamul, Irshad Ahmad Paddar, Mansoor Ahmad, Uzair Ahmad and Aqib Sheikh.

A J&K police statement said civilians visited the “encounter site immediately after operation in spite of request not to visit as thorough search is to be made for explosives once flames douse”.

“They didn’t listen and visited the spot immediately after forces withdrew and some explosive substance went off resulting in injuries to civilians,” it said.

Local residents, however, blamed the security forces. “They are responsible for this bloodbath. They should have sanitised the area before leaving,” said Laroo resident Aijaz Ahmad.

Multiple health officials told The Indian Express that more than 30 people visited health facilities in Srinagar, Kulgam and Anantnag. Chief Medical Officer, Kulgam, Dr Fazil Kochak said they treated 21 people injured at the explosion site. “My surgeons said most were injured in the blast,” he said.

SSP, Kulgam, Harmeet Singh said that when the forces left the encounter site, the house where the militants were hiding was in flames and heavy stone-pelting was on. “The house was in flames and it was not possible for us (to wait). People were throwing stones at the forces,” he said, adding that three security personnel were injured in the encounter.

“When we left, we advised civilians not to go towards the house. We told them that we would sanitise the site when the fire is doused,” said Singh.

He said grenades were used by both sides during the encounter. “When the local residents started checking the debris, one grenade went off,” he said.

Singh added that the militants killed were local residents and affiliated to Jaish-e-Mohammed.

At Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS) in Srinagar, health officials told The Indian Express that four injured people from Kulgam had reached the hospital. Dr Saleem Tak, Medical Superintendent, SMHS, said that out of the four victims, two were declared brought dead at the hospital. “One of the dead is a 14-year-old boy.,” he said, adding that the hospital also received some people with pellet injuries.

To protest against the deaths of the civilians, the Joint Resistance Leadership has called for a shutdown on Monday and a protest at Lal Chowk on Tuesday.

SSB personnel killed

Srinagar: Militants on Sunday evening fired on a security establishment at Midoora in south Kashmir’s Tral, killing one Sashashtra Seema Bal (SSB) constable. “A security force personnel identified as Constable Vijay Kumar was injured who was subsequently shifted to hospital for medical attention, however the said official succumbed to his injuries,” said a Police statement.

Rajnath visit tomorrow

New Delhi: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh will visit Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday to review the security situation iand interact with political leaders, officials said. The visit comes after the urban local body elections, which were boycotted by the major political parties National Conference and the PDP.

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