Three Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists, including self-styled chief operations commander Yasin Itoo alias 'Gaznavi', were killed in an encounter that began on Saturday night and also claimed the lives of two armymen in Shopian district of South Kashmir.
Following a tip-off to the local police, a cordon was laid in Awnira village of Shopian on Saturday night by the Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, Army and the Central Reserve Police Force.
Terrorists fired at the approaching security personnel, wounding five Army personnel, two of whom later died.
This prompted the security forces to wait till dawn while keeping a tight cordon around the area before launching a major strike.
Intermittent firing continued the whole night, and the operation began in full swing in the morning.
All three terrorists holed up were killed. They were identified as Irfan, a tech-savvy terrorist involved in online propaganda for the outfit, and Umar, who was personal security man of Ghaznavi.
Itoo, from Budgam district of central Kashmir, had a long association with Hizbul Mujahideen and was involved in keeping alive the prolonged unrest of 2016 following the killing of group's commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces, besides recruiting several young men into the outfit, police said.
He was identified by his family members who were brought to the scene of the encounter by police from their residence in Budgam.
Itoo, often called a 'vintage militant' as he joined Hizbul Mujahideen in 1996, had surrendered in 2007 and later released on parole in 2014.
He joined the terrorist group again and was its self-styled chief operations commander.
One Kevyt Konekivaan (KK) series rifle used by Itoo and two AK series rifles were recovered from the encounter scene.
Security forces launched a cordon and search operation on Saturday following information about the presence of terrorists in Awnira village of Zainapora area of the district.
As the forces were conducting searches, the terrorists opened fire which was returned.
Five soldiers were injured in the gunfight on saturday and had to be evacuated to 92 Base Hospital of the Army for treatment. Two among them succumbed to injuries last night.
They were identified as Sepoy Ilayaraja P, a resident of Tamil Nadu, and Sepoy Gawai Sumedh Waman from Maharashtra.
Army bids adieu to the martyrs
The Army paid floral tributes to the two martyrs and Naib Subedar Jagram Singh Tomar, 42, a resident of Madhya Pradesh, was killed on Saturday after Pakistan army fired on Indian Army posts.
"In a solemn ceremony at Badami Bagh Cantonement here, Chinar Corps Commander, Lt Gen J S Sandhu, and all ranks paid homage to the martyrs on behalf of a proud nation," a defence spokesperson in Srinagar said.
In a wreath-laying ceremony organised in Rajouri, the General Officer Commanding, Ace of Spades Division laid the wreath on behalf of the General Officer Commanding, while White Knights Corps (16 Corps) and all the ranks of the division paid tributes to the slain soldier.
"The Army paid last tributes to Naib Subedar Jagram Singh Tomar, who was martyred on the Line of Control (LoC) in KG Sector yesterday," an army spokesperson in Jammu said.
Cabinet ministers Choudhary Lal Singh, Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura, Minister of state Zahoor Mir, along with chief secretary B B Vyas, principal secretary Home R K Goyal and Director General of state Police, S P Vaid, joined the army in paying tributes to the two jawans who were killed in the encounter in Badami Bagh Cantonement in Srinagar.
Waman, 25, who hails from village Lonagra in Akola, Maharashtra, had joined the Army in 2011. He is survived by his parents, a brother and a sister.
Ilayaraja P, 25, hailed from Kandani village of Sivagangai district in Tamil Nadu and had joined the army in 2012. He is survived by his parents, wife and sister.
The mortal remains of the three soldiers have been flown for last rites to their native places, where they would be laid to rest with full military honours.