Two militants, claimed to be Pakistani cadres of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, died and an army officer sustained injuries in an encounter in Kashmir Valley’s Kupwara district on Monday.

Superintendent of Police, Handwara, Maqsood-uz-Zamaan, told The Hindu from the site of the encounter that two militants, who were later identified as the LeT’s Abu Huraira and Abu Talha, were killed when troops of the Rashtriya Rifles 6th Battalion and the Jammu and Kashmir Police carried out a raid on a militant hideout at Sheikh Mohalla of Malikpora, Vilgam, in northern Kashmir. Mr. Zamaan described Abu Huraira as the outfit’s “divisional commander” and claimed that he was identified on the basis of the documents seized from his belongings. He said both the militants had operated in the Vilgam forest area for over three years. It was being ascertained if they had any role in the beheading of a head constable of the J&K police last year.

Two AK-47 rifles and two hand grenades were recovered along with the two bodies which were peacefully buried by the residents under police supervision. Unlike in Lolab and other encounters in the last two months, reports said there was no disturbance in the politically surcharged Handwara area where most of the mainstream parties have started campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections.

The SP maintained that there was no collateral damage and the entire civilian population was safe. However, an Army officer Major Sandeep Kotwal sustained minor injuries. He was under treatment at a Sector Hospital near Kupwara.

Gunman killed in Tral

Reports from south Kashmir said that a gunshot was heard late on Monday night outside Gole Masjid in Tral township of Pulwama district. Police and security forces rushed to the spot and found a 6 ft tall bearded militant in combat uniform dead in a pool of blood. DIG Vijay Kumar told The Hindu that there was no movement or operation of Police or security forces in Tral when the gunshot was heard. “Some of the residents believe he is the Jaish-e-Mohammad outfit’s Pakistani militant Arshid Bhai alias Chhotu. But that is not a conclusive identification”, Mr Kumar said.

The DIG said that the unidentified hitman could be a rival group’s militant. He said that one pistol shot has been pumped into the suspected militant’s skull from behind and the assassin has decamped with his gun. However, five AK-47 magazines, one hand grenade and one radio set were found in the slain guerrilla’s pouch.