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Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Yasin Ittoo Among 3 Militants Killed in Shopian Encounter

Yasin Ittoo was on top of a list of militant targets released by the Army earlier this year. In a video message posted online last month, he had warned of several attacks on the security forces.

News18.com

Updated:August 14, 2017, 11:28 AM IST
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Srinagar: Top Hizbul Mujahideeen commander Yasin Ittoo was among the three terrorists gunned down by the security forces in an overnight operation in Shopian district in south Kashmir.

Two Army men had lost their lives in the gunfight that started on Saturday evening and stretched till Sunday morning. Three soldiers had also been injured in the encounter.

Ittoo was on top of a list of militant targets released by the Army earlier this year. A resident of Nagam Chadoora in Budgam, he was famous as Mehmood Gaznavi. The news of his death was confirmed by the official handle of J&K Police's twitter handle.

Police said Ittoo, who was 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.

He was identified by his family members who were brought to the scene of the encounter by police from their residence in Budgam.

Often called a 'vintage militant' as he joined Hizbul Mujahideen in 1996, Ittoo had surrendered in 2007 and later released on parole in 2014. He joined the militant group again and was its self-styled chief operations commander.

In a video message posted online last month, Ittoo had warned of several attacks on the security forces. He was also believed to be behind the wave of bank robberies in Kashmir in the last few months as HM looked to ramp up its operations and induct more men for its attacks. The HM commander had also urged Kashmir policemen to join the terror outfit and offered support for stone-pelters.

Giving details about the encounter, a defence spokesman said that security forces had launched a cordon and search operation after receiving information about the presence of militants in Avneera village in Zainapora area of the district on Saturday.

As the forces were conducting searches, the militants opened fire on them which was retaliated by the law enforcement personnel, triggering a gunfight. Five soldiers were injured in the gunfight on Saturday and were evacuated to 92 Base Hospital of the Army for treatment. Two soldiers among them succumbed to their injuries on Saturday night.

The operation was halted for the night but the forces maintained cordon of the area to stop the militants from fleeing. The gunfight resumed on Sunday morning and the three militants were killed. The two other militants killed were identified as Irfan, a tech-savvy militant involved in online propaganda for the HM, and Umar, who was personal security man of Ittoo.

A defence spokesman identified the slain Army men as Sepoy Ilayaraja P, a resident of Tamil Nadu, and Sepoy Gawai Sumedh Waman, a resident of Maharashtra.

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