A top Hizbul-Mujahideen commander Muhammad Yasin Itoo, who is the successor of slain Burhan Wani, and two other militants were killed in an encounter in a remote village of southern Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir overnight, official said on Sunday. Two Army personnel were also killed in the encounter, while four others were injured.
“Top HM commander Yasin Itoo @ Ghaznavi among the killed terrorists in Shopian encounter,” Deputy Inspector General of Police (DGP) south Kashmir S P Pani tweeted.
Yasin Itoo, alias Mehmood Ghaznavi had taken over the command of Hizbul Mujahideen after the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani in July last year. The killing of Wani has triggered a massive uprising in the valley in which nearly 90 people have lost their lives. Itoo was one of the longest surviving militants in Kashmir.
The other two militants killed in the gunfight have been identified as Sheikh Irfan-ul-Haq and Umar Majeed, both local militants. A B.Tech graduate in Food technology, Irfan-ul-Haq had joined militants two years ago.
Ghaznavi from Budgam in central Kashmir joined militants in 1996 and was arrested several times. Sometime after his release in 2015, he went missing and a Hizb statement declared him dead. In a statement, Hizb Chief Salah-ud-din said that Ghaznavi was killed when he fell from a mountain while being on “operational duties”. His funeral of absentia was also offered at his Nagam residence, Indian Express reports.
Meanwhile intense clashes erupted around the encounter site and many civilians were injured. Protests erupted in the valley after the encounter with locals clashing with security forces. Locals came out to pelt stones at the personnel targeting the suspected militants. The internet services have been reportedly snapped in many parts of the valley.
Several residents injured when the police fired tear gas shells and pellets on locals who rushed out of their homes to protest and pelt stones on the forces as soon as firing started.
Army has identified the slain soldiers as Gawai Sumedh Waman and Ilayaraja P.
According to a senior official, seventy young men have joined militancy in the past seven months this year with most of the recruits from three districts in south Kashmir.
Since 2014 when Narendra Modi rode to power, there has been a constant rise in the number of people joining militancy. As many as 66 youths joined militancy in Kashmir in 2015 and 53 in 2014, according to data compiled by security agencies. In 2010, 54 youths joined militancy and in 2011, the number came down to 23. It further dipped to 21 in 2012 and 16 in 2013, it said.