Security forces gun down militant in Indian Kashmir, say he was top commander

Two militants were killed in Saturday's attack. In photo: Indian military personnel, south of Srinagar on February 20, 2016. Photograph:( AFP )

Reuters Kupwara, India Jun 28, 2016, 05.30 AM (IST)
Security forces gunned down what they claimed was a top militant commander in India's Kashmir after a prolonged firefight today.

The gun battle broke out after army and police launched a joint search operation in Kupwara district following a tip-off about the presence of the militant.

The militant opened fire on the security forces as they zeroed in on the house he was hiding in. A heavy exchange of fire followed.

Brigadier Rajeev Puri of the Indian army's Rashtriya Rifles said the militant belonged to the Pakistan-based Hizbul Mujahideen group.

"We have recovered his body. We have been told that his name is Sameer Wani. Identification process is underway. He was a top commander of Hizbul (Mujahideen)," Puri said.

"He had grenade and a pistol and other recoveries are being made. Parties (forces) have come out. We will give more information later. Operation is over," Puri added.

Violence in Kashmir has spiked against a backdrop of rising social tension and separatist sentiment in the Muslim-majority region, which for decades has been at the centre of a strategic tussle between India and Pakistan.

Militants killed eight paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and injured 20 others when they targeted a security convoy in Pampore town of the state on June 25.

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) claimed responsibility for the attack.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence in 1947 over Kashmir, which they both claim in full but rule in part.

India accuses Pakistan of training and arming the rebels in the portion it controls and sending them over to the Indian side, a claim its neighbour denies.