Police on Friday killed four terrorists, including chief of the banned Islamic State Jammu and Kashmir Dawood Ahmed Sofi, in a remote mountain village in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, six days before the annual Amarnath Yatra begins, officials said.
A policeman and a civilian were also killed in the exchange of fire between terrorists and security forces at Khiram village of Srigufwara tehsil, police said.
The operation began before dawn at Khiram, 23 km from the main national highway and overlooking the tourist town of Pahalgam, after intelligence reports about the presence of terrorists in the area, police said.
One of the terrorists killed was identified as Dawood Ahmed Sofi, who headed the Islamic State affiliate ISJK and is believed to be involved in several cases of murder and stone pelting, he said.
The other three, also believed to be with the ISJK, were identified as Aadil Rehman Bhat, Mohammad Ashraf Itoo and Majid Manzoor Dar, said Inspector General of Police (Kashmir) Swayam Prakash Pani, who was supervising the operations.
“The operation was successful and teams from state police, army and the Central Reserve Police Force made every effort to prevent collateral damage,” Pani said.
Giving details of the encounter, police said a joint patrol of security forces was fired at as they advanced towards a house where the terrorists were hiding. This resulted in the death of a policeman, Ashiq Hussain, and a civilian identified as 53-year-old Mohammed Yousuf Rather, aged 53.
In the encounter that followed, four terrorists were gunned down and some civilians injured in the crossfire, an official said.
Giving details about Sofi, police said he was 33 years old, a resident of Srinagar’s Zainakoot area and was involved in several stone pelting cases in the area before he joined the terror outfit ISJK.
He is believed to be involved in the murder of assistant sub-inspector Ghulam Mohammad and head constable Naseer Ahmad at Bagh Ali Mardan Khan in Zadibal and also in the killing of a policeman and snatching his rifle at Tengpora Batamaloo in May 2016 besides other terror attacks.
Sofi was initially known to be affiliated with the banned Tehrek-ul-Mujahideen terror outfit. Later, the group itself aligned itself with the ideology of the IS and renamed the group ISJK, officials said.
Dar of Talangam village in Pulwama also joined the group and remained active along with Bhat who belonged to Shettipora village in Bijbehara and Itoo from Hatigam village in Srigufwara.
The killing of the four terrorists is being seen as a major achievement with security forces intensifying their operations against terror groups before the two-month Amarnath yatra begins June 28.
Clashes broke out near the encounter site when a group of youth started pelting stones on the forces, a police official said.
Security forces used force on the protestors and several civilians were injured, he added.
Authorities have suspended mobile internet services in three districts -- Srinagar, Anantnag and Pulwama -- of the Valley as a precautionary measure to maintain law and order.
Photographs: Umar Ganie for Rediff.com