Three militants of the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) outfit were killed in more than 18-hour long gunbattle in south Kashmir's Pulwama district, which witnessed highest number of militant attacks this year, on Tuesday.
The gunbattle broke out between the militants and security forces on Monday evening around 8 pm, when a search party zeroed in at Hajan Mohalla of Rajpora area in Pulwama, 35 km south of Srinagar.
"There was a tip-off regarding the presence of armed militants in Hanjan village. The militants, who were hidden there, fired at the search party, triggering an encounter," said Srinagar-based spokesman of the zonal police headquarters.
The security forces had decided not to advance during the night. They put up flash lights and set up concertina wires, circling the area where the militants were hiding.
"Exchange of fire started again when the search operation was resumed this morning, in which three militants were killed," said the spokesman.
The operation concluded around 1:30 pm on Tuesday. The slain militants were identified as JeM district commander Altaf Ahmad Rather, Showkat Ahmad, Pulwama and Farooq Ahmad.
"Rather was involved in many militancy-related activities. He was one of the group members involved in the attack and weapon snatching incident of a police guard at Pakharpora shrine in Budgam district this year," said the spokesman.
One of the three militants reportedly was a fresh recruit and had joined the militant ranks two few weeks ago.
Dozens of locals hurled stones at the security forces, while the operation was one. The security forces used tear-smoke shells and fired blanks to quell the violent protesters.
This year, Pulwama district emerged as a major focus of militants. In August alone, the militants carried out four attacks that left three cops, two Border Security Force (BSF) jawans and one civilian dead in three separate attacks in south Kashmir. Thirteen security personnel were also injured.
In the run up to the parliamentary polls earlier this year, the district witnessed several attacks from militants, which left several cops and grassroots representatives dead.
Police sources said the killing of three JeM militants has "reduced striking capability of the militants". The area remains on a high alert.
Violence in Pulwama
August 11: Militants ambushed a convoy of the BSF in south Kashmir's Pampore area, leaving nine troopers injured.
August 12: A railway policeman was killed at Malangpora in Pulwama district. His rifle was also snatched.
August 13: Three policemen and a cop were killed in south Kashmir's Pampore area.
August 16: Militants intercepted a BSF gypsy and killed two BSF men and injured four others near the army's Koil airbase in Pulwama district.
August 17: Militants fired a police post in Pulwama. No one was injured.