Srinagar, Feb 22 (UNI) Four youths were allegedly killed by the security forces at Handwara when Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was present in the north Kashmir district of Kupwara this afternoon.
Elsewhere in the state, seven militants were among nine people killed when security forces busted a hideout overnight.
A defence ministry spokesman and police claimed the youths were killed in the cross firing during a search operation.
Official sources said security forces allegedly resorted to firing when some youths, playing cricket in a field at Dodipora, Handwara, about 29 km from here, started to flee after saying something to security personnel.
12th class student Ghulam Hassam Bhat (!8) Abdul Samad Mir (19) and Shakir Wani (8) died on the spot while Amir Akbar Hajam (8) was injured critically, they added.
Hajam also died in the hospital. Later Hajam's body was taken to Handwara chowk where a large number of people were protesting against the incident.
They alleged that security forces opened fire without any provocation when more than 70 people were present in the ground on the bank of a local river.
However, a defence ministry spokesman said that basing on a specific information, troops of 31 and 21 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) launched a search operation at Dodipora village today.
When the troops were sealing the village, militants opened fire. The fire was returned and in the exchange four civilians were killed, he added.
Deputy Inspector General of police Mohammad Subhan Lone told UNI that four civilians have died and two security personnel were injured in the shootout.
Chief Minister Azad was present in the Kupwara district where he addressed a public meeting shortly before this incident took place.
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