Srinagar: Three Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) fighters and a civilian woman were killed, while two CRPF personnel, including an officer, sustained injuries in a predawn gun battle in Batamaloo area in the city here on Thursday, officials said.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officer is in a critical condition, they said.
Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Firdousabad locality in Batamaloo around 2.30 am following information about the presence of militants there, the officials said.
They said the search operation turned into an encounter after the militants opened fire on security forces.
A civilian, identified as Kaunsar Riyaz (45), was killed in the firing, while two CRPF personnel, including Deputy Commandant Rahul Mathur, were injured, the officials said.
The injured personnel were taken to hospital, they said.
A police spokesperson said the slain fighters have been identified as Zakir Ahmad Paul, a resident of Aloora Imam Sahib Shopian; Ubair Mushtaq Bhat, a resident of Badragund Kulgam; and Adil Hussain Bhat, a resident of Batapora Chersoo, Awantipora.
"All were affiliated with proscribed terror outfit HM. They were involved in several attacks in Srinagar city and south Kashmir," the spokesperson said.
Acting on a lead, security forces zeroed in on a house where the militants were hiding, Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbag Singh said.
"They were given a chance to surrender, but they refused and opened fire. One CRPF officer and another CRPF man sustained injuries in the initial exchange of firing. The officer is critical and we are praying for his recovery," he said at a press conference at the Police Control Room (PCR) here.
IGP, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar and IG, CRPF, Srinagar sector, Charu Sinha were also present at the press conference.
Singh said the forces conducted the operation in a professional manner and killed all three militants.
"However, a woman was caught in the crossfire. Her death is very unfortunate, and we express sympathy with the bereaved family," he said.
"Arms and ammunition were recovered (from the slain militants)," he added.
DGP Singh said militants from other districts of south and north Kashmir keep coming to Srinagar to carry out attacks on security forces.
"On August 14, they targeted our party and killed two policemen in Nowgam. Before that, they had killed two BSF men at Pandach on the city's outskirts. And then they made another attempt at Pantha Chowk, where we lost a brave SOG man," he said.
"Today's operation was the seventh one in Srinagar in the recent past," the DGP said.
"In terms of peace, 2020 has been better on every parameter than 2019. So far this year, we have done 72 operations in which 177 militants were killed, including 12 in Jammu," he said.
He said 22 Pakistani militants were among these 177, adding that this "shows Pakistan's direct involvement in terror activities".
"Most of the terrorists working for outfits like Lashkar and Jaish are from Pakistan. I hope the way the forces are conducting the operations, we will achieve more successes on the peace-building and operations front," Singh said.
He said the police and CRPF teams are alert. Whenever they get a lead about the presence of militants in the city, efforts are made to ensure zero collateral damage.
"We also give opportunity to militants to surrender, even when there is exchange of firing. Also, we try to bring back those youth who have taken up the wrong path and we have achieved success on that front also, especially in south Kashmir. I think around 20 youth have been brought back and they have joined their families," he said.
Singh appealed to youngsters not to take the wrong path, saying it puts the society in danger.
"Where the gun, bullet or grenade reaches, there is loss of life, and we can avoid it only if we shun the path of terror and make way for peace," he said.
"I think Pakistan does not lose any opportunity to instigate our youth and is trying to revive (militant) outfits like Al-Badr and create new ones like PAFF (People's anti-Fascist Front) and TRF (The Resistance Front).
"Pakistani agencies in Karachi are planning and executing these things and we condemn it. The youth here have a right to build their own lives and careers, but Pakistan's interference is there," he said.
Asked about the alleged assault of media persons near encounter sites, the DGP said it is unfortunate and such things should not happen.
"We do not support such acts and feel bad. But at times, during operations, our men have a high temper which results in such incidents. There is overreaction sometimes, which I regret. However, there is no deliberate attempt. I reiterate that media and policemen are each other's good friends," he said.