The recent rains and snow pushed out a group of Lashkar e Toiba militants from the woods and were killed in a gunfight in Jammu and Kashmir’s northern Bandepur district, sources in government said on Saturday.
An Indian Air Force commando and six militants including nephew of Lashkar’s operational chief Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi were killed in a fierce firefight while a soldier and a civilian were injured.
Indian army’s Srinagar-based spokesman said that a joint team of army, police’s special operation group and paramilitary central reserve police force launched a cordon following specific inputs about presence of some militants at Chandergeer in the district’s Hajan. The joint team of forces intensified the combing operation and the hiding militants opened fire upon them triggering of an encounter, he said.
With the killing of six Lashkar militants, who are all Pakistanis according to police and army officials, the outfit’s leadership is over northern districts of Kashmir. The Lashkar leadership has been killed in southern districts of Kashmir where its commanders and key militants including Junaid Matto, Abu Ismail and Arif Lelhari fell last year.
Two other foreign militants, including LeT commanders Zargam and Mehmood, are also among the militants killed on Saturday, police said.Government sources believe that not only there is leadership vacuum in Lashkar now but it is also facing crisis at cadre-level which has dashed its operational capabilities to a very large extent across the Kashmir.
Director General of Police SP Vaid, in a tweet on micro-blogging website, Twitter, wrote: “One of the terrorist named Owaid is son of Zakir Rehman Maki and nephew of Zakir Rehman Lakhvi (alleged mastermind of Mumbai attacks).”
The top police officer also added in another tweet that Lashkar commanders Zargam and Mehmood have also been killed in the operation.
Two soldiers including an Air Force commando suffered injuries in the encounter and were hospitalized. However, the commando succumbed to injuries in the military hospital, the defence spokesman said, adding that the search operation in the area is still going on.
Sources told Kashmir Dispatch that the group had moved out of a forest area owing to snow and rainfall in past few days. “The cold brought them out of the woods and they took refuge in a house and were spotted,” the sources said.
The group of militants had been active in the Hajan area since past four months and had carried out many low scale strikes on government forces. Sources said the group had killed a border security force trooper in the region.
Reports said that a civilian Ashiq Hussain received a bullet wound in his leg and was immediately shifted to nearby hospital where from he was referred to JVC hospital in Srinagar for specialised treatment.
During the encounter, clashes erupted in the area between locals and government forces. The internet services in the district that borders the Line of Control have been suspended as a precautionary measure, an official said.