Srinagar, Oct 21: Seven civilians were killed Sunday when unused explosives went off in Kulgam district of South Kashmir, police said.
The incident happened at Laroo village in Kulgam district, one of the worst hit by militancy in South Kashmir, Sunday morning when security forces launched a search-and-cordon operation following intelligence report about the presence of militants.
The security forces made repeated announcements to the militants for surrender but instead they were fired upon. In the retaliatory fire, three militants of Jaish-e-Mohammed were killed.
The blast that left six among seven civilians dead and scores of others injured occurred near ‘veranda’ of the house in which militants were killed, locals of the area said, alluding to the fact that explosive that went off might have been placed by the government forces to bring down the house where militants were holed up in Kulgam district of south Kashmir.
The police, however, said that the blast took place from “rear side of the house and not beneath the veranda”, and it occurred when locals were digging the house in a bid to find ‘weapons’ underneath the debris.
While six civilians died in the blast, another one was killed due to firing by government forces on protesters who took to streets soon after the gunfight in which three local militants were killed and two soldiers were injured at Laroo village in the south Kashmir district.
“The explosion occurred beneath the veranda of the residential house where the encounter took place,” locals said.
SSP Kulgam Harmeet Singh said that the people went near the encounter site for “searching for the weapons.”
“Possibly some explosive left by the militants went off while people were digging there, leading to the killing of the civilians. Basically, the people started searching for the weapons and while doing so, possibly someone’s foot touched the explosive and there was a blast,” he said.
Asked about claims by people that explosion took place beneath the veranda of the house, the officer said: “It is a matter of investigation but the blast took place from rare and not beneath the veranda.”
The police officer also confirmed that seven civilians were killed besides three militants— Shahid Ahmad Tantary son of Abdul Rashid Tantary of Wangam Shopian, Zubair Ahmad Lone son of Manzoor Ahmad Lone of Ahwatoo Kulgam and Yazil Ahmad Makroo son of Mushtaq Ahmad of Arwani Bijbehara.
Meanwhile, thousands of people participated in the funeral of the six civilians while the identity of another civilian remained unknown till late Sunday night. The body of the civilian was kept in a mortuary in the Kulgam hospital for identification till late on Sunday evening and was identified as Javed Ahmed Lone son of Mohammad Ibrahim Lone resident of Hawoora Kulgam. “The body has been handed over the family for burial on Sunday night,” the police officer said.
The other slain civilians laid to rest after funeral prayers by the thousands of people include Auqib Ahmad Sheikh (18) son of Gulzar Ahmad Sheikh of Danow Macanpora, Kulgam, Uzair Ahmad Dar (8th standard student) son of Mushtaq Ahmad Dar of Nayakpora near Kulgam Town, Irshad Ahmad Paddar son of Sayedullah Paddar of Shurat Kulgam, Mansoor Ahmad Dar Son of Ghulam Mohammad Dar of Bogund Kulgam, Talib Ahmad Laway son of Mohammad Maqbool of Laroo and Mukeen Ahmad Bhat of Laroo.
All the slain were laid to rest in their ancestral graveyard while the funeral of two of the civilians— Talib Ahmad and Mukeen—was held jointly.
Locals said that it was a very difficult day for them because the funerals of the civilians took place within the radius of 8 to 10 kilometres.
Mother of Mansoor addressed the people during funeral prayers and said that “if my son has hurt anyone, I am seeking forgiveness.” She then broke down amid shouting pro-freedom slogans.
The funeral prayers of Mansoor and Auqib were held in a paddy field of their respective native Village by thousands of people. (GNS)