Kulgam (J&K): At least seven civilians were killed and 40 injured after a bomb went off during an encounter between militants and security forces in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kulgam district on Sunday, which left three Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militants dead, officials said. The incident happened at Laroo village in Kulgam district on Sunday morning when security forces launched a search-and-cordon operation following intelligence report about the presence of militants.

The police said that during the encounter, repeated warnings were made to the civilians that they should not visit the encounter site unless these are declared safe. Reports from the village said locals were busy dousing the flames at the house that was damaged during the encounter when a deafening explosion occurred.

“Someone from the crowd fiddled with an unexploded substance, resulting in the tragic incident,” a police spokesperson said. “Six people have been killed. We are trying to find out how it happened and what kind of explosive it was,” said Swayam Prakash Pani, Inspector General of Police.

The Kulgam district hospital authorities said that initially three injured were brought to the hospital who were declared dead on arrival. “Two injured civilians while being taken to a Srinagar hospital died on the way while another was declared brought dead by doctors at the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences,” said the spokesman. Later one more injured succumbed to his wounds at a hospital.

Expressing grief at the Kulgam encounter and loss of the lives, former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: “Extremely saddened by the news of Kulgam incident, where civilians were once again caught in the crossfire of violence, thus adding fuel to the already volatile situation. All words of condemnation, condolence sound very hollow at this tragedy.”

With agency inputs