Four civilians, one soldier killed in anti-terror operation, militants flee

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Train service was again suspended on Wednesday for security reasons in south Kashmir, where a fierce encounter broke out between militants and security forces during a search operation since late late Tuesday night in Kulgam.

Police said a soldier was killed and two other security personnel were injured on Wednesday when militants holed up inside a house started firing at security personnel closing in on them.

Sepoy S. Gunakar Roy was killed when militants hiding in a house in Wani Mohalla in Khudwani area fired at security personnel closing in on them. "The gunfight is still underway", said news agency IANS, quoting police.

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Sarjeel Ahmad (25), Faisal Ilahi (14) and Bilal Ahamad Tantray (16) succumbed to injuries at a hospital, they said.

The slain soldier has been identified as 24-year-old Sada Gunakara Rao, a resident of Atisurikaviti village in Andhra Pradesh's Srikakulam district.

This was strongly contested by locals who assert that the civilians were shot dead by the security forces determined to break up the street protests.

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"Army had even used helicopter gunships to fight out the militants".

One civilian, identified as Sartaj Ahmad Ganie of Khudwani, Kulgam, received critical injuries during the clashes near encounter site. The statement was silent on the death of the fourth civilian. Police have sent a communication to the cellular companies directing them to snap down the mobile internet data in Pulwama, Shopian and Awantipora reduce the speed in Srinagar with immediate effect. The joint separatist leadership is expected to mobilise protesters to agitate against the civilian killings. An official spokesman said that all educational institutions in the Valley except in Ganderbal district will remain closed on Thursday, and all board and university examinations scheduled for the day have been postponed.

The encounter in Kulgam today comes days after the Indian forces successfully neutralized a total of 13 Hizbul Mujahideen militants in a spree of encounters conducted on April 1.

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Police said the driver was being evaluated and did not seem to be familiar with commercial vehicle restrictions on the parkway. It was not clear which schools they were affiliated with, and authorities said the trip was not organized by school officials.

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