SRINAGAR: A civilian was killed and two soldiers were injured on Thursday in an exchange of gunfire between suspected militants and Indian Army in held-Kashmir, barely hours after authorities wounded up one of the biggest counter-insurgency operation in the region without much success. Officials said militants fired indiscriminately at a retreating column of the Indian Army’s 66 Rashtriya Rifles which was involved along with Indian police and paramilitary in the day long operation in south Kashmir’s Shopian district. Two soldiers and a civilian driver ferrying the army men in his private cab were injured in the shooting in Baskuchan village. The driver later succumbed to injuries. It was not immediately known how the driver identified as Nazir Ahmad Sheikh, a resident of Shopian’s Kachdoora locality, landed up with the army who, in the past, have faced accusations of abducting private cabbies for accompanying them in counter insurgency operations to avoid detection by militants. Parts of Shopian district remained under siege on Thursday with protests breaking out in some villages against the alleged high-handedness of the forces. Nearly three dozen new recruits of militancy were seen in couple of new videos that went viral on social media in Kashmir, despite an official ban on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The videos, shot apparently in the orchards of Shopian in south Kashmir, the epicentre of anti-India and pro-freedom protests in the region since last year, showed the local recruits of Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba groups receiving arms training and flaunting their automatic rifles. The spurt in militancy coupled with killing, allegedly by militants, of at least one political activist and a district president of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party last month, sparked fear and anguish in south Kashmir areas where Indian forces don’t venture out and militants are reportedly spotted in broad daylight. “It was a show of strength to reclaim the space for mainstream which is shrinking fast due to the prevailing crisis and aggravated by the Government of India’s refusal to engage politically with the people of Kashmir. Many villagers cooperated with us which is a positive sign,” a J&K Police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. The search operation, involving forces in the excess of 3500 personnel, covered nearly two dozen villages with Indian airforce choppers and drones pressed into action while special forces were kept on standby, fruitlessly, as it turned out, since the operation was called off in the evening without much success. At many places in Shopian, Indian forces clashed with angry residents who were protesting the “brazen violation” of their privacy, “They (forces) vandalised my home and broke windowpanes. There was no one inside but they refused to listen,” Abdul Majid, a resident of Sugan village, told Daily Times. Witnesses said the Indian forces went on a rampage in Sugan, Turkwangom, Pinjora and other villages of the district, allegedly assaulting the residents and damaging property including houses, at least one government building and dozens of cars parked on roadsides, sparking massive demonstrations. The army’s Srinagar-based spokesman promised to get back over phone with more details about the highhandedness of his forces but he didn’t call back. Authorities have banned 22 social media and instant messaging applications like Facebook and Whatsapp to prevent the prevailing crisis from imploding into a mass uprising but netizens in Kashmir have waged a full fledged VPN war, skirting the ban and expressing more anger against New Delhi and the state government. Meanwhile, an encounter broke out between militants and Indian forces in Kulgam district on Thursday. To help the trapped militants escape, hundreds of locals came out of their homes and staged protests which soon booked down into violent clashes. Protests and exchange of gunfire was going on when this report was filed.