Paramilitary troopers stands guard after a gunfight with militants at Hajin village of Kashmir's Bandipora district, north of Srinagar, on October 11, 2017.(AFP File Photo)
Paramilitary troopers stands guard after a gunfight with militants at Hajin village of Kashmir's Bandipora district, north of Srinagar, on October 11, 2017.(AFP File Photo)

26/11 mastermind Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi’s nephew, 5 LeT militants killed in J-K

An Indian Air Force commando was also killed while an army soldier was injured in the encounter that took place in Chandergeer village on Saturday evening.
By Abhishek Saha | Hindustan Times, Srinagar, Srinagar
UPDATED ON NOV 19, 2017 07:48 AM IST

Security forces shot dead six Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants, including the nephew of a Pakistan-based terror mastermind accused of planning the 2008 Mumbai attacks, in north Kashmir on Saturday, the state’s top police official and the army said.

One elite air force commando was also killed in the operation in Bandipora, only the second time the crack Garud force has suffered any casuality during anti-insurgency operations in Kashmir. Two commandos were killed last month.

Another soldier was injured in Saturday’s encounter.

Director general of police SP Vaid confirmed on Twitter that one of the militants killed, identified only as ‘Owaid’, was the nephew of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack.

The slain militants were from Pakistan, he added.

Lakhvi, a close relative of LeT founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, is accused of planning and executing strikes on India’s financial capital on November 26, 2008 that killed 166 people and wounded hundreds.

“Great success for security forces!” Vaid tweeted, adding that weapons and ammunition had been recovered.

Other than Owaid, Vaid said LeT commanders Zargam and Mehmood were also killed. Mehmood is accused of murdering a Border Security Force (BSF) constable in his home in Hajin, Bandipora, when he was on leave from duty in September.

Saturday’s encounter was the latest in a series of high-profile operations by the security forces that has resulted in the deaths of at least 7 other militants this month alone. In August, government forces gunned down Abu Dujana, a top LeT commander in the Valley.

The militants killed this year include Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar’s nephew Tallah Rashid, JeM’s Mehmood Bhai, LeT’s Waseem Shah as well as Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, the successor of Burhan Wani as the Hizbul Mujahideen’s Kashmir chief. Wani’s killing last year had sparked months-long street protests in the Valley that left more than a 100 people, most of them civilians dead.

Earlier this month, Vaid had said around 170 militants had been killed by security forces in Kashmir till October – claiming it to be a record of sorts in the past decade. Last year, around 150 militants were killed in the state, official data show.

Kashmir police recently said there are around 200 active militants in the Kashmir Valley, with around 110 of them being local youth.

A senior Bandipora police officer told Hindustan Times that police had information about a group of Pakistani militants who operated in the area and moved around -- sometimes individually or together.

On the basis of a tip-off, the police, army and central paramilitary forces cordoned off and launched a search operation in Chandergeer village in Hajin area. The search operation resulted in an encounter when the militants fired on the search party of the security forces, who retaliated, police said.

About 70 security personnel have also been killed in the state this year in militancy-related incidents, sources said.

Kashmir’s joint separatist leadership -- comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik -- called for a shutdown on Sunday in protest against the encounters in the last one week.

In a statement the leaders said the Indian government “should stop the killings and instead resolve the internationally acknowledged Kashmir issue in accordance with internationally accepted means of dispute resolution so that precious human lives are not lost and peace and security prevails in the region”.

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