Terrorists hiding inside a mosque opened fire at a Central Reserve Police Force patrol team in Jammu and Kashmir's Sopore town on Wednesday, killing a jawan and a civilian whose three-year-old grandson narrowly escaped the hail of bullets and was rescued by security forces, officials said.
The incident in north Kashmir's apple town took place a little after 8 am. Three Central Reserve Police Force troopers were injured in the attack, which led to panic in the area.
The CRPF personnel, on routine patrol duty, returned the fire but the terrorists managed to flee from the area, the officials said.
It is not clear how many terrorists were holed up inside the mosque.
As people scurried for cover, 60-year-old Bashir Khan who was travelling with his grandson in his car abandoned the vehicle and made an unsuccessful attempt to run for safety but was killed, officials said, narrating the sequence of events.
When CRPF personnel saw the toddler crying next to his grandfather's body, some of them made a dash to rescue him as their colleagues opened fire to cover them.
The incident triggered intense debate with Khan's son alleging that his father was pulled out from the car and killed by security forces, a charge denied by the CRPF.
Images of the weeping child near his grandfather's body were circulated widely on social media, intensifying the debate.
"The civilian was killed by terrorists and all the noise on social media is being orchestrated from across the border," Additional Director General of CRPF Zulfikar Hasan told reporters in Sopore.
CRPF and other security forces have the utmost regard for places or worship and no one could even think that terrorists would use the mosque as a hideout, he said, and complimented the jawans for their patience and presence of mind during the encounter.
Later in the day, police officials went inside the mosque along with prominent citizens of the area and saw the bloodstains in one part of the mosque building.
CRPF head constable Deep Chand Verma, who was injured in the attack along with three of his colleagues, was declared brought dead to the hospital.
"One needs to wonder how a man sitting 50 km away from the site of encounter come to this conclusion that such a thing had happened," an official said, responding to allegations by Khan's son who lives in Mustafabad locality in Srinagar's HMT area.
The son said his father left for Sopore along with his grandson at 6 am for some personal work.
The CRPF also issued a statement detailing the events.
"Militants hiding in the attic of a nearby mosque started firing indiscriminately on the troops resulting in injuries to four CRPF personnel," it said.
"A civilian vehicle which was coming from Sopore and going towards Kupwara was caught in the firing range of terrorists. An old man who was driving the vehicle stopped the car and got down from vehicle to move away for safe spot but got killed by terrorists firing," it added.
Later, a young boy was rescued by security forces personnel who had taken positions nearby.
Jammu and Kashmir Police later shared a picture of the child being carried by a security officer on its official Twitter handle, saying it "rescued a three-year-old boy from getting hit by bullets during terrorist attack in Sopore".
The injured constables, Bhoya Rajesh, Deepak Patil and Nilesh Chawde, have been admitted to a hospital, the force said.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah said every incident becomes a "propaganda tool in the bloody violence in Kashmir".
"A three year old toddler has to have his misery broadcast to the whole world to drive home the 'we good they bad' message. We would have got the point without his misery being filmed and shared so please don't," he said on Twitter.
"We would have expected no less from the men in uniform than to rescue the young boy and for that they have our gratitude but we would expect better than for them to film & use a three year old's pain the way it's being done today," Abdullah added.
Apni Party, an outfit formed by disgruntled leaders from various political parties of Kashmir, demanded a time-bound probe into the Khan's killing.
"The government should order an impartial investigation into the circumstances that led to the killing of a civilian," the party, headed by Altaf Bukhari, said in a statement.