Kulgam, Dec 25 (UNI) A 40-hour-long operation against Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) militants, holed up in a mosque in south Kashmir, ended last mid-night, with all three of them being killed and five hostages rescued safely.
A senior police officer said the offensive against the holed up militants, who had also held five villagers as hostages since December 23 afternoon, was launched after they refused to surrender.
He said the police and other security force agencies waited for more than two days and repeatedly asked militants to release the hostages and surrender.
When there was no positive response from the militants, the police fired tear-smoke to force the militants to come out, he said, adding that a fire-fight ensued when the militants started firing on the security forces after coming out from the mosque.
The security forces also retaliated and killed two of them on the spot while another was killed when he tried to re-enter the mosque.
He said all the five villagers, held hostage, were rescued unharmed and no damage was caused to the mosque during the operation.
The official identified the slain local HM militants as Shiraz Ahmad Bhat alias Asghar, Mudasir Ahmad Mir alias Jehangir and Ishfaq Ahmad Wagay.
Yesterday, two hostages escaped when they were asked to bring food from outside for others. Later, one more escaped from the mosque and finally the fifth was rescued before the encounter ensued.
However, locals refuted the police claim and said the mosque was damaged in the firing.
They also held demostrations forcing the police for open fire in the air and lob teargass shells.