Three top Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commanders, holed up in a house, were killed on Friday in a gunfight with the security forces in Kupwara district of the Kashmir valley.
Though the army has not revealed the identity of the slain militants, sources said that the deceased included Saqib, believed to be heading the LeT module in Kashmir, and his deputy Umair.
“Three militants have been killed in this gunfight. The bodies of the slain militants are visible at the encounter site,” said Lt Colonel JS Brar, spokesman of the army’s Srinagar-based 15th Corps.
The army said four LeT militants held a woman hostage in her house and this delayed the encounter. The security forces rescued the woman before the encounter started.
“The woman was rescued by the security forces in a daring operation. The operation against the militants had to be delayed in order to rescue the woman,” Brar said.
The gunbattle took place in Maidanpora village, 84 km north of Srinagar.
Saqib had taken over from Abdullah Unni before the latter left for Pakistan. Sources said Saqib was in constant touch with his Pakistani handler Furkaan, who had taken over the Kashmir cell of the organisation after the arrest of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a founding member of the LeT.
A police press release said the encounter started following a tip-off about the presence of armed militants in Kupwara.
“The police, assisted by Rashtriya Rifles, laid siege to the area last night (Thursday night). The siege continued throughout the night and the wee hours of the morning. The militants, holed up in a house, fired upon the search party, triggering an encounter,” a police spokesman said.