Two Lashkar-e-Taiba militants, including a top “commander” Wasim Shah who is believed to be behind recruiting local youth to join the terror outfit, were killed in a gunfight with security forces in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Saturday, triggering protests by locals who clashed with police, in which one civilian was killed.
In a separate incident, militants attacked a police vehicle in Damhal Hanjipora area Saturday evening, killing a constable.
LeT district commander Wasim Shah alias Usman, hailing from Shopian, was killed along with Naseer Mir in Litter village, where the gun battle took place.
Police said Wasim Shah was a close associate of Hizbul commander, Burhan Wani who was killed on July 8 last year in Kokernag area of Anantnag district, triggering months-long violent protests in the valley in which many people were killed.
As news about the killings spread in the area, announcements were made through mosque public address systems asking people to come out and stage protests.
Protesters from the village and adjacent areas gathered in large numbers, pelting stones at security forces and shouting pro-Islam slogans. Several protesters were injured, while one civilian protester died of bullet injury.
The protester, identified as Gulzar Ahmad Mir, sustained a gunshot injury and was shifted to a nearby hospital. However, the doctors there referred him to Srinagar for treatment.
“He was rushed to SMHS hospital in Srinagar, where he succumbed to critical injuries,” the police sources said.
Over a dozen other protesters were injured in the clashes. One more person with a firearm injury was referred to Srinagar while reports from the area said at least three have sustained pellet wounds.
Earlier, a gun battle between the militants and the security forces broke out after the latter received specific intelligence inputs on the LeT militant’s presence in Litter village.
As the security personnel closed in on their hideout, the militants opened fire triggering the gunfight.
An AK-47 and an AK-56 rifle and six magazines were recovered from the site.
Inspector General of Police Muneer Khan, addressing a press conference, said Wasim Shah was “very notorious and his elimination was a big success as he used to recruit cadre for the LeT”.
“Terrorists have misused social media to lure youth in south Kashmir, no doubt about it,” he said.
Khan said the operation was launched by the state police, army and CRPF following specific information received about the presence of the two LeT militants. The two were first asked to surrender but when they started firing, the troops retaliated and gunned them down, he said.
The killing of Wasim Shah follows a string of such operations by security forces in which they have killed top rung leaders of militant groups like LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Hizbul Mujahedin.
Authorities suspended Internet services in Pulwama district in the wake of protests that followed the killing of the militants.
Multiple funeral prayers for the slain militants were held in Pulwama district with scores of people attending the funeral prayers.
In neighbouring Kulgam district, militants attacked a police vehicle in Damhal Hanjipora area on Saturday evening.
A police constable identified as driver Khurshid Ahmad was killed in the attack while another policeman was injured.
Additional deployment of security forces was rushed to the spot which was cordoned off to locate the militants.