Kaila Mandi, Samba, May 11 (UNI) Five people, including a photojournalist and an army jawan, were killed in an ongoing encounter between militants and security forces at Kaili Mandi in Samba district in Jammu and Kashmir today.
One militant was also killed in the encounter which has raised questions on the BSF's claim to have foiled a ''major infiltration bid'' from the International Border nearby, in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday night.
The army launched the final assault at 1645 hrs using heavy weaponry, zeroing in on the house where a small group of two to three militants were hiding.
The militants had stormed the house of one Hoshiar Singh, an Indian Democratic Party leader in Rakh Amb Tali village near Kaili Mandi this morning and shot at the people inside.
While Hoshiar and his wife succumbed to wounds, their two family members were shifted in critical condition to the government medical college and hospital, Jammu, sources said.
Three more Army jawans and two J and K policemen were also injured in the attack.
The militants were in army's combat dress and carrying latest telescopic weapons and big bags, the villagers said.
The gunshots created panic in the area and villagers took out their licensed guns to take on the militants, who took refuge inside another house in Kaili Mandi.
Security forces immediately swung into action and launched a massive operation. Troops cordoned off the house from where the militants were firing.
The militants captured some people, including children, as hostages inside the house. ''At least four people, including two children and a woman, were inside the house. The militants are firing intermittently,'' an official source from the encounter site told UNI.
Security forces have managed to kill one militant, the source said.
Latest reports said all the hostages had been freed. They include one woman and two children.
Mr Ashok Sodhi, a chief photographer of the Daily Excelsior, a Jammu-based leading English newspaper of Jammu and Kashmir, also fell prey to the bullets while covering the operation. He was the first journalist from Jammu region to be killed during the 18 years of insurgency in the state.
An army jawan also died in the gunbattle with the militants while Major Mukul Chouhan and another sepoy were wounded, an official spokesman said.
The Shankaracharya of Puri arrived at the encounter site to bless the security forces. He prayed for the victims of the attack.
''Remember the lessons of the Mahabharata and fight the enemies,'' the Shankaracharya said as the operation against the militants continued.
The BSF on Friday had claimed to have foiled a major infiltration attempt of militants from 6-R post at Banghalar area near international border in Samba district.
However, other security agencies, suspecting infiltration into the Indian side, were conducting searches in the bordering district.
A huge quantity of ammunition and explosives, including 10 kg RDX powder, 135 AK ammunition, 111 pika rounds, three UBGL grenades, two detonators and a radio set were recovered from the Suchani forests of Samba.
During his visit to Srinagar on May 7, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Deepak Kapoor had also suspected escalation in terrorist activities in the state after melting of snow in the mountains along the Line of Control.
UNI VJ RP BD1759