A top Islamic terrorist leader and an army officer were killed in a fierce pre-dawn gunbattle on Tuesday in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, police said. Sohail Faisal, a top commander of the Hezb-ul-Mujahedeen militant group in Kashmir, was killed in the firefight in Bijbehara, said Hemant Lohia, deputy inspector general of police in Srinagar, summer capital of India's Jammu-Kashmir state.
Faisal was responsible for planning and executing some of the deadliest car bomb attacks carried out by Hezb-ul-Mujahedeen in Jammu-Kashmir over the past three years, Lohia said. Police launched an operation in Bijbehara - a small town 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Srinagar - after a tip that Faisal was there. An intense gunfight broke out after he was challenged, he said.
An army officer was also killed, but his identity wasn't immediately available, Lohia said.
"Faisal was the mastermind behind some of the big car bomb explosions in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir. He trained militants and directed terrorist attacks across Jammu-Kashmir," said army spokesman Col Jayant Pendse.
Hez-ul-Mujahedeen is among more than a dozen Islamic militant groups fighting since 1989 for Kashmir's independence or its merger with neighboring Pakistan.
India accuses Pakistan of funding and training the militants in the Pakistani-controlled portion of Kashmir. Islamabad denies the charge saying it only gives moral and diplomatic support to the rebels.
More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the 17-year conflict.