Burhan Wani’s successor among 3 Hizbul militants killed in Shopian; 2 soldiers dead | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Burhan Wani’s successor among 3 Hizbul militants killed in Shopian; 2 soldiers dead

Police officials blew up a house where a group of suspected gunmen was believed to be hiding during the operation that went on from Saturday evening till Sunday morning.

india Updated: Aug 14, 2017 07:45 IST
Ashiq Hussain
Soldiers take positions outside a house where militants were hiding during an encounter in which three Hizbul Mujahideen commanders and two soldiers were killed in Shopian district of Kashmir on Sunday.
Soldiers take positions outside a house where militants were hiding during an encounter in which three Hizbul Mujahideen commanders and two soldiers were killed in Shopian district of Kashmir on Sunday.(PTI)

In a blow to the Hizbul Mujahideen, three militants, including Burhan Wani’s successor Yasin Itoo, were killed in an overnight gunfight that also left two soldiers dead in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, police said on Sunday.

A youth was killed in neighbouring Pulwama when locals clashed with security forces as they were returning from the site gunfight, police late said in the evening. A mob started throwing stones, forcing police to open fire.

The 40-year-old Itoo alias Mehmood Gaznavi was named the “commander” of the home-grown militant outfit after Wani was killed in July 2016. Wani’s death sparked violent street protests that left around 100 people, most of them civilians, dead.

“Certainly, it is a big elimination as he was one of the major protagonists in last year’s unrest,” south Kashmir deputy inspector general of police SP Pani said.

The gun fight started Saturday night when a joint team of police and army launched searches in Avneera village. Militants fired at them in an apparent attempt to break the cordon, injuring five army men. Two of them -- sepoys Gawai Sumedh Waman and Ilayaraja P, both 25, -- died late in the night.

The forces suspended the operation after midnight and relaunched Sunday morning. As security forces battled heavy firing from the militants, locals pelted them with stones. Unconfirmed reports said 12 civilians were injured in clashes with police.

Itoo, who joined militancy 20 years ago, is the second senior Hizbul man to die after Wani. Sabzar Bhat was killed in May.

“One of terrorists killed today morning at Shopian is identified as Yasin Itoo; operational commander of Hizbul Mujahideen. Great success!” Jammu and Kashmir police chief SP Vaid tweeted.

Kashmir has seen a surge in such exchanges with the government hardening its stand against militants after a recent spurt in violent street protests and attacks on security forces.

In the last 15 days, 22 militants, including five infiltrators, have been killed in the Valley.

A resident of central Kashmir’s Budgan district, Itoo was a recruiter, too, who put out videos exhorting youth to join militancy, Pani said. He was identified by his family members who were brought to the encounter site.

Itoo had surrendered in 2007 and released on parole in 2014 only to join the group again.

Police identified his accomplices as Irfan ul Haq Sheikh from Shopian and Umar Majeed from the neighbouring Kulgam district in south Kashmir, the hotbed of militancy.

Sheikh, who was a BTech, handled online propaganda for the militant outfit while Majeed was the personal security guard to Itoo.