Anantnag: Top Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant Junaid Mattu is believed to have been killed along with an aide in a gunfight with government forces in Arwani area of Kulgam district.
The firing has stopped at the encounter site after more than 8 hours, but the police are yet to retrieve any bodies from the site of the encounter.
Junaid Mattu featured in the list of 12 most-wanted militants that was issued by the army recently.
A resident of Khodwani in Kulgam district, Mattu had been active since July 2015 and carried a bounty of Rs 10 lakh on his head.
According to police reports, the Malik Mohalla locality of Arwani was cordoned off early Friday morning by government forces. Even as protests erupted in the area and government troops opened fire on the crowd, in which two civilians were allegedly shot dead and another 30 injured, the gunfight with the militants continued intermittently.
“The militants kept firing at intervals,” a police source told Kashmir Reader.
In the middle of the day, when the firing from militants stopped for more than two hours, the government forces advanced towards the site of the encounter to retrieve bodies, only to be welcomed with a fresh volley of bullets.
“Following that, the forces razed to ground at least three residential houses where they believed the militants were shifting their positions,” local sources told Kashmir Reader.
As per police sources, the last bout of gunfire from militants came at about 4:30pm , after which there was complete silence.
The operation has not been declared over yet, though the police believe they have killed both the militants, one of them Junaid Mattu.
“We are sure that Mattu has been killed but the bodies are yet to be retrieved,” a senior police official told Kashmir Reader.
The encounter was followed by a daredevil attack by militants in Achabal area of Anantnag district that left 6 policemen, including a Station House Officer, dead.
Speculations are that the Achabal attack was carried out in retaliation to the killing of Mattu.
Meanwhile, LeT paid tributes to the outfit commander, Junaid Mattu, Azad Malik, Muhammad Ashraf, and Ihsan Dar who were killed in Arwani encounter.
In an statement issued to KNS, the LeT spokesman, Dr Abdullah Ghaznavi while quoting the outfit chief, Mehmood Shah as saying “These sacrifices won’t go in vain. The pure blood of martyrs shall prove to be the death for India.”
Shah appreciated the mothers, sisters, old and young “who came up against Indian forces and in solidarity with their Mujahideen brothers”.
“No power on earth can be proven as fatal to the Mujahideen, the support of our brothers and sisters and the divine help of Allah SWT is what keeps us standing firm in our ranks against a brutal enemy,” he added.
He said that the ‘relentless firing’ of Indian forces on innocent is enough for the world to witness the “barbarism of India”. “India is a cancer to the humanity, love, peace and harmony in the region. Imposing such inhumane acts on innocents is evident to the reality that India is a strict human-rights violator,” he said.