A top Hizbul Mujahideen commander, wanted in connection with the assassination of a senior BJP leader and an RSS functionary, was killed along with two other terrorists in a nine-hour operation in which a jawan lost his life in Ramban district of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, officials said.
The terrorists, identified as Osama and his associates Zahid and Farooq, were gunned down after they tried to escape from a house where they had barged in while being chased by security forces following a brief exchange of fire in Batote area along Jammu-Kishtwar national highway early this morning, they said, adding a house-owner was also rescued after the encounter ended.
Osama was the brain behind several incidents including the killings of senior BJP leader Anil Parihar and his brother Ajit Parihar on November 1, 2018 and RSS functionary Chanderkant Sharma and his PSO on April 9, officials said.
He was carrying a reward of several lakhs of rupees and was also wanted in three weapon snatching incidents in Kishtwar town, which was declared terrorist-free over a decade ago.
Despite repeated attempts to make the terrorists surrender, the terrorists tried to escape from the house while firing indiscriminately on the forces and were eliminated in the encounter, they said.
"All the three terrorists were killed in the gunfight, while an army soldier also achieved martyrdom," Jammu-based Army PRO Lt Col Devender Anand told PTI.
The deceased soldier was identified as Naik Rajinder Singh from Jaisalmer. Two policemen were injured in the gunbattle, officials said, adding a huge cache of arms and ammunition were recovered from the possession of the militant.
The success for security forces comes days after Inspector General of Police, Jammu, Mukesh Singh said that four cases of killings and weapon snatching in Kishtwar district have been solved with the arrest of three Hizbul Mujahideen activists.
While naming Osama and five other terrorists, the IGP had on September 23 said the security forces are after them and they will be brought to book soon.
As the pressure on terrorists increased in Kishtwar, Osama and the other two terrorists tried to escape from the district and had reportedly spent the night at an abandoned temporary shelter on the highway before being confronted by security forces, the officials said.
"Today (Saturday) morning at about 7.30 am, two suspicious individuals tried to stop a civilian vehicle at the general area Batote on the highway. The driver was alert, did not stop the vehicle and rushed and informed the nearest Army post.
"The quick reaction team reacted promptly and contact was established with the suspicious individuals," Lt Col Anand said.
Following a brief encounter at Dharmund village of Batote this morning, the fleeing terrorists intruded into a residential house with some shops on the ground floor, the officials said adding the house was immediately cordoned off by search parties comprising Army, police and CRPF and the encounter re-started at around 1 pm.
The elderly house owner, Vijay Kumar, was "trapped" in the house while rest of his family managed to come out and were subsequently evacuated to safety, the officials said.
Kumar, who locals claimed was a BJP worker, was rescued after the encounter ended. Earlier, a police spokesman said that they had information about the presence of five terrorists in the house based on the inputs provided by the rescued family.
"Repeated attempts were made to make the terrorists surrender but they tried to buy time so that they can make an attempt to flee the house by taking advantage of darkness later in the day," an official said adding when the cordon was being tightened, the terrorists fired indiscriminately.
Later, they came out of the house while firing indiscriminately on the forces but were eliminated in the encounter. The movement of traffic on the highway was stopped following the incident as a precautionary measure, they said adding the traffic will be restored as soon as possible once the area is sanitised.