Anantnag: Three militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba, one of them the deputy of the outfit’s chief and another a 17-year-old Srinagar youth who had gone missing on April 16, were killed in a gunfight with governmnet forces Sunday evening, here in Pulwama district of South Kashmir, the police have maintained.
Inspector General of Police (IGP), Vijay Kumar, identified one of the slain militants as Arif Hazar, alias Rehan.
Kumar said that Hazar was the deputy to Lashkar chief Basit, and has been involved in a number of killings, “including the killing of Inspector Parvez, who was killed in front of a mosque in Srinagar, earlier this year,” Kumar said.
He maintained that Hazar was involved in the killing of a police Sub-Inspector Arshid and a mobile shop owner in Srinagar. “Several FIRs stand registered against him in Srinagar city.”
Kumar confirmed to a news agency that teenager Natish Shakeel Wani of Baba Demb (Khanyar) was among the killed militants. The teenager had left for afternoon (Zuhr) prayers on April 16 and had been missing since. While family had issued appeal to him to return, police said he had joined militant ranks.
The IGP identified the third slain militant as ‘Haqqani’ of Pakistan.
The gunfight today took place in Pahoo village on the outskirts of main town Pulwama. A senior police official said that a cordon and search operation was launched in the area at around 3:30 PM Sunday afternoon, following specific inputs regarding the presence of militants.
“Contact was established and the militants were asked to lay down their arms. They, however, opened indiscriminate fire which was retaliated, triggering a gunfight,” the official said, adding that the three of them were neutralised during the course of the gunfight.
The official said that the bodies of the slain, along with arms-ammunition and some incriminating material, have been retrieved from the site of the gunfight. “The bodies will be sent to North Kashmir for burial, following identification and other medico-legal formalities.”
Authorities have refused to hand over bodies of slain militants to their families, since April 2020, when they cited Covid protocol as a reason. They have continued with the practice and the slain militants are being buried at undisclosed locations in north Kashmir, in presence of a few family members.
Today’s gunfight was the second in south Kashmir in less than 24 hours, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Jammu on a one-day visit on Panchayati Raj Day.
Two Pakistani militants, of Jaish-e-Muhammad, were killed in Mirhama village of Kulgam district in south Kashmir Saturday evening. On April 21 four militants, including the longest surviving commander of LeT and a 12th class student turned militant, were killed in a gunfight with government forces in the Baramulla district of North Kashmir.
On Friday, a day ahead of Modi’s visit, a Fidayeen attack was foiled in Jammu wherein two militants and a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) officer were killed in the Sunjwan area of the Jammu division.
Militants have also been actively targeting non-locals, Kashmiri non-muslims, and politically affiliated people in different parts of Kashmir valley since early March now.
The police have been maintaining that the number of active militants in Kashmir has gone down to an all-time low, as dozens have already been killed this year.