Security forces on Wednesday said three local terrorists were killed in an encounter at Lawaypora on the outskirts of Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir

Families of the slain, however, rebutted the forces’ claim and said the youth killed in the encounter were civilians. The families held a protest outside police control room in Srinagar.

The encounter started on Tuesday evening after the J&K police, the army and the CRPF launched a cordon and search operation in the locality close to the national highway after inputs about the presence of terrorists.

Security sources told Hindustan Times that the army had received the inputs, and subsequently an operation was launched by joint forces in the area.

By late night, sources said the operation was stopped and all the entry and exit points towards the area were completely sealed. The army claimed the terrorists killed in the encounter were planning a big attack on the national highway.

At a press briefing, General Officer Commanding (GoC) Kilo Force HS Sahi said, “We had been getting inputs about terrorist movement on the national highway. The operation was launched last evening after getting inputs that terrorists were inside a house close to the national highway. They were asked to surrender, however, they responded with firing and the operation was suspended for the night. When the operation was resumed in the morning, they were again given an offer to surrender; however, they again started firing and hurled grenades at the forces, which gave us an indication they had no intention to surrender.”

Families of the three youth killed in the encounter identified them as Zubair Ahmad from Turkawangam Shopian, Ajaz Maqbool and Athar Mushtaq from Putrigam Pulwama.

The families said that they were students and had left their home yesterday and alleged that they were picked up and then killed in an encounter.

Former J&K chief minister and Peoples’ Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti said that authorities should come clean on this encounter.

“Worrying that in the past few months after the Shopian fake encounter other families too in J&K have alleged that their sons were innocent & killed in a staged encounter. Authorities need to come clean on this,” tweeted Mehbooba along with a video of protesting relatives of the youth killed in encounter.

Stone pelting was also reported in the area even after the operation ended on Wednesday.

So far 203 terrorists have been killed in J&K this year, among them 166 were local terrorists, most of them were killed in four districts of south Kashmir. The security forces have also arrested 49 terrorists and ensured surrender of nine of them during the year, an official said.

There have been 96 terror-related incidents in 2020. While 43 civilians were killed, 92 others suffered injuries in these incidents, they said. In 2019, 47 civilians were killed and 185 persons were injured, the official added.