Forces have shot down Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, a top Hizbul Mujahideen commander, in an encounter in Pulwama's Tral that has been going on since Friday.
Sabzar Ahmad Bhat is widely believed to have succeeded Burhan Wani, whose killing last year sparked months-long unrest and violence in Kashmir.
Apart from Bhat, two more militant have been killed and at least one is believed to be trapped in the area under barrage of heavy fire from the Indian security forces.
Based on specific inputs by military intelligence, the 42 Rashtriya Rifles and the Jammu and Kashmir police launched cordon and search operations in Saimuh near Hardumir, Tral in Pulwama district at around 7:30 pm on Friday. The security forces were then fired upon while placing the cordon at around 9:15pm. Since Saturday morning, security forces and the terrorists had been exchanging heavy fire.
Search operations are still underway as of Saturday afternoon.
Bhat’s death was confirmed by SP Vaid, the director-general of Kashmir police.
Sabzar Bhat was seen by many as a successor to Wani, a young militant commander whose death triggered anger among many Kashmiris.
At least 100 civilians have been killed in protests and clashes with security forces since Wani died in July last year.
Wani belonged to the Hizbul Mujahideen, an outfit that leads the militancy in Kashmir separatism and is considered a terrorist outfit by India, the United States and the European Union. He joined the outfit when he was 15 and went on to become the poster boy of Kashmir militancy.
After his death, the Hizb named Mehmood Gaznavi as the new commander in Kashmir.
While there was no information available on Ghaznavi, speculations were rife that his real name was Sabzar Ahmed Bhat.
Saturday also saw 6 militants killed along the Line of Control, the de-facto border with Pakistan.
The army said in a statement that it engaged them as they tried to enter Indian territory in the Rampur sector.
It may be noted that there has been an increase in border tensions between India and Pakistan. While India has put its Air Force on the ready, Pakistan has also alerted its forward operating bases along the LoC. And this is not counting the continued ceasefire violations along the border by Pakistan, which has resulted in thousands having to leave their homes in villages along the LoC and go to live in refugee camps.