In a blow to Pakistan-based Lashker-e-Tayiba and Hizbul Mujahideen, six terrorists, including a terrorist involved in planning journalist Shujaat Bukhari's murder and three commanders, were killed in an early morning encounter at Bijbehara in South Kashmir, police said.
The security forces had launched an operation in the foothills of Wagahama Suktipora on Thursday night following information about the presence of terrorists in a hideout there, they said.
The police said there was firing from a house and the six terrorists were killed when they were trying to escape under the cover of darkness in the ensuing encounter.
"It was a swift operation based on intelligence inputs provided from the ground," Inspector General of Police (Kashmir range) Swayam Prakash Pani said Srinagar after the encounter ended.
The terrorists were identified by the police as Azad Ahmad Malik of Arwani in Bijbehara, Unais Shafi of Takiya Maqbool Shah, Bijbehara, Basit Ishtiyaq of Pushwara Anantnag, Atif Najar of Waghama Bijbehara, Firdous Ahmad of Muchpuna Pulwama and Shahid Bashir of Kawni Awantipora.
"It was a combined group of Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashker-e-Tayiba terror groups. Unais Shafi and Basit Ishtiyaq, as per police records, were with the HM and Unais was HM's commander of Anantnag district. The others were with the LeT," police spokesman said.
"All the six terrorists were wanted by the law for their complicity in a series of terror crimes, including attack on security establishments and civilian atrocities," he said.
The police said Azad Ahmad Malik alias Azad Dada, who was the district commander of LeT Anantnag, had escaped from an encounter site at Khudwani Kulgam in April this year along with one more associate.
"Azad was a close associate of absconding accused Naveed Jatt and was wanted in the assassination of journalist Shujaat Bukhari and his security personnel.
"In this case, a hue and cry notice was issued against the him along with three others on the basis of material evidence collected," the spokesman said.
Bukhari was killed by Lashker-e-Tayiba terrorists on June 14 this year during the holy month of Ramzan at Lal Chowk while he was on his way to break his fast.
The police spokesman said a huge quantity of arms and ammunition, including four AK-47 rifles and one Insas rifle, were recovered from the site of encounter. All materials were taken in the case records for further investigation, he said.
The police advised citizens not to venture inside the encounter zone as the area could be dangerous due to stray explosive materials.
They requested the people to cooperate with the police till the area was completely sanitised and cleared of all the explosives materials, if any.
Last month, seven civilians were killed in Kulgam in South Kashmir when they pelted stones at security forces and later thronged an encounter site which was not sanitised.
All photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com