Top LeT militant killed in Srinagar encounter

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 The District Police and Special Operations Group killed a militant, Hilal Maulvi, belonging to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), during an early morning raid on his hideout in the congested Fatehkadal area on Thursday. The militant from Palhalan, Pattan, was one of the most wanted men in Jammu and Kashmir.

Sources said that the gunbattle lasted for about an hour, though the militant was believed to have died within 15 minutes of firing. This is the first time after several years that an encounter has taken place between the police and the militants in downtown Srinagar, once the hub of separatist militancy and politics.

Senior Superintendent of Police, Srinagar, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari, confirmed to The Hindu that the militant killed in the gunbattle near Chinkral Mohalla, between Habbakadal and Fatehkadal, was identified as Hilal Maulvi of Palhalan, Pattan. He said that the raid was conducted on specific information about the militant’s presence at the hideout. As soon as the holed up militant found himself cordoned, he lobbed at least four hand grenades and shifted to three different houses, but was finally gunned down by the police, Mr. Bukhari said.

Hilal Maulvi, according to the SSP, was a top-ranking LeT commander who was also involved in a fidayeen attack at a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp at Police Public School at Bemina, in Srinagar outskirts, on March 13, this year. Two Pakistani militants of LeT and five CRPF men died in that gunbattle. Mr. Bukhari said that the two militants killed, and also the arrested militant from his hideout at Qamarwari area, had stayed with Hilal Maulvi at his home in Palhalan village a number of times.

One Chinese pistol was reportedly among the things recovered from the site of the encounter. Mr. Bukhari said that three policemen sustained injuries in the encounter.

Even as the police and security forces had described Hilal Maulvi as “LeT’s most wanted militant in North Kashmir,” separatist political groups, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani-led faction of the Hurriyat Conference, had repeatedly mentioned him as a “political activist.” They have claimed in their statements that Maulvi was not associated with any guerrilla group but had gone underground due to continued raids on his home and harassment to the family.

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