Srinagar: Three soldiers and 13 militants were among 20 killed in the Kashmir Valley on Sunday in fierce fighting whose victims included those who had abducted and murdered Lt Ummer Fayaz in May last year.
In one of the worst rounds of armed clashes between the security forces and militants in recent years, the fighting took place in two places in Shopian district and a third spot in Anantnag district in southern Kashmir.
During the fighting, a large number of civilians poured out of their homes, leading to more trouble.
The Army, the Jammu and Kashmir Police and the Central Reserve Police Force said a total of 11 militants, three soldiers and four civilians lay dead at the end of the day.
One militant was killed in Dialgam in Anantnag district while one person was arrested there, a police officer said.
Seven militants were killed in Dragad village of Shopian district and five in Kachdoora village in the same district.
"Three Army soldiers were martyred in these operations," a police officer said.
Four civilians were also killed in Shopian -- one at Dragad and three at Kachdoora.
Addressing a joint press conference at Awantipora in Pulwama district, Lt Gen A.K. Bhatt, Commander of the Army's Srinagar-based 15 Corps, said: "Today is a very special day for all our security forces.
"We have killed eight terrorists in two operations..." he said, adding that the third operation was still going on in Kachdoora village - where eventually five militants were killed. While security forces had initially claimed three, bodies of two more militants were found in the rubble when security forces searched the area afterwards.
Gen Bhatt said two terrorists responsible for killing Lt Fayaz when he was visiting his family on a holiday had been eliminated. Fayaz, posted in the Rajputana Rifles in Akhnoor, was abducted and killed by militants in May last year, when he had gone to attend a family wedding, and his body was found the next day.
"I appeal to youths not to get lured by weapons. Anybody who uses weapons will be dealt with in the same manner we dealt with the terrorists today."
He said Sunday's was the biggest anti-militancy operation in the Kashmir Valley in a long time.
Jammu and Kashmir Police chief S.P. Vaid said that at Dialgam, a Senior Superintendent of Police made a special effort to persuade the terrorists to surrender.
He summoned the family members of the two terrorists in a bid to persuade them to give themselves up.
"Instead of surrendering, one of the holed up terrorists opened fire and the security forces had no option but to kill him.
"The other one we caught alive. Operations are carried out most professionally by the security forces.
"Two Army jawans have been martyred in the operation while some others belonging to the Army, CRPF and police have been injured."
The officer said two civilians were also killed in the fighting.
"One was the house owner in Dragad village where the terrorists were holed up and the other was injured in clashes in Kachdoora.
Six other civilians sustained bullet injuries, out of which two later succumbed in hospital.
The police chief said all the seven bodies of local militants killed in Dragad have been claimed by their families.
He identified the killers of Lt Fayaz as Ahmad Malik and Rayees Thokar, both of whom were among those shot dead in Dragad.
The police chief said four to five militants had been trapped in Kachdoora.
"It is painful for all of us to see the loss of young lives. I appeal to parents to ensure children do not get lured by guns."
Inspector General of Police S.P. Pani said Internet services had been suspended in all four south Kashmir districts. "Train services were also suspended as a precaution."
Srinagar city, he added, was by and large peaceful.
Authorities have ordered closure of all colleges and schools in the Valley on Monday as a precaution.