Three militants, including top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Yasin Itoo, were killed in an over 24 hour-long gunfight that ended on Sunday in Jammu and Kashmir's Shopian district and also left two soldiers dead. A dozen stone-pelting protesters were injured in clashes with security forces in the area.
Yasin Itoo, alias Mehmood Ghaznavi, the operational commander of the Hizbul, was among those killed in the gunfight in Awneera village in Shopian.
The other two slain militants were identified as Umar Majid and Irfan.
Earlier, the third militant was believed to be Adil Malik.
Itoo, also spelt as Yatoo, was a resident of Chadoora area of Badgam district. One of the longest surviving militant commanders, he had joined militancy in 1997.
The three slain militants were locals belonging to Hizbul Mujahideen outfit. Three AK-47 rifles were recovered from their possession.
The house in Awneera village in which the militants had been hiding was blasted by the security forces.
Jammu and Kashmir police chief SP Vaid tweeted on the success:
In an earlier post he said:
Over a dozen youth were injured in clashes with security forces as they pelted stones during the operation in Awneera village.
One protester sustained a bullet injury and was shifted for treatment to Srinagar city.
Two youths identified as Owais Shafi and Mohammad Sayeed Bhat were killed in security forces' action on mobs of stone-pelting youth in Pulwama and Shopian districts respectively.
22-year-old Shafi sustained multiple pellet injuries at Kakapora in Pulwama and was referred to SMHS here for treatment, where he was declared 'dead on arrival' by the doctors on Sunday.
25-year-old Bhat received bullet injury near the encounter site at Avneera in Shopian and was taken to a hospital where he succumbed late on 13 August.
A senior police officer said two militants had managed to escape from the cordoned area during the operation.
Five army soldiers were injured in the gunfight. Two injured soldiers later succumbed to critical injuries.
A defence spokesman identified the slain Army men as Sepoy Ilayaraja P, a resident of Tamil Nadu, and Sepoy Gawai Sumedh Waman, a resident of Maharashtra.
The injured soldiers are being treated at the army's base hospital in Badami Bagh area of Srinagar.
Earlier, acting on specific information, the security forces surrounded Awneera village on Saturday evening after which they were fired at by the militants, leading to the gunfight, a police spokesman said.
Seven civilians had sustained pellet injuries on Saturday when protesters engaged the security forces in clashes to break the cordon around the site of the gunfight.
Internet services have been blocked in Badgam district following the identification of Itoo among the slain militants.
In another incident, three security personnel, including two policemen and an army soldier, sustained injuries when militants fired at a cordon laying party in Hajin area of Bandipora district on Sunday.
The cordon and search operation was later called off as the militants managed to escape from the area.
Meanwhile, the J&K police also denied rumours suggesting a mosque has been damaged in the district, during the encounter.
Itoo, from Budgam district of central Kashmir, had a long association with Hizbul Mujahideen and was involved in keeping alive the prolonged unrest of 2016 following the killing of group's commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces, besides recruiting several young men into the outfit, police said.
(With inputs from IANS)
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