Srinagar: The last of the 11 Hizbul Mujahideen militants led by Burhan Wani who were in the picture that had gone viral four years ago was killed this morning bringing an end to the “pioneers” of new-age militancy in Kashmir valley.
Lateef Tiger, who was the last standing militant of Burhan group, was killed along with two of his associates in an encounter with army and police at Imam Sahab area of south Kashmir's Shopian district on Friday.
The photograph of the 11 militants had become viral in June 2015 as they posed boldly without masks in front of the camera and posted pictures online, in contrast to earlier times when they remained hidden and did not reveal much. The photo had become hugely popular among youth.
Tiger can be seen on the extreme right in the middle row of the group photo, with his index finger pointed towards the sky. In some earlier media reports, he had been misidentified as Ishfaq Hameed.
Friday’s encounter at Adkhara village of Imam Sahab followed a tip-off about the militants hiding in a house. A senior police officer said that in ordinary course, they would have avoided an operation in view of the third leg of polls for the Anantnag parliamentary seat on Monday, but “because the militants were important, we decided to go ahead with the operation and not wait for another day.”
He said the additional security deployed for the polls would ensure the situation does not escalate.
Lateef Ahmad Dar alias Tiger of Dogripora, Pulwama, he said, was wanted for last six years and he was an expert on fabricating IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices).
SP Pani, Inspector General of police, Kashmir, told News 18 that Lateef was a big catch as he was a "vintage'' militant. The other militant, Tariq Moulvi, was responsible for motivating youth to join militants, Pani added.
The third militant killed has been identified as Shariq Ahmad Negroo of Chotigam, Shopian.
An army soldier was also injured in the three-hour-long gunfight. Three houses were also damaged in the operation.
Sources said that one residential house was damaged completely and two others suffered partial damage.
In the wake of the killing of militants, youth staged protests and clashed with government forces near the encounter site. The police and paramilitary CRPF used pellets, tear smoke shells and live ammunition to disperse them.
In the incident, several youth suffered injuries due to pellets and tear smoke shells. A youth also sustained a bullet wound in his leg and was hospitalised.
The authorities have also snapped internet services across south Kashmir following the gunfight and spontaneous shutdown is being observed in Shopian and other parts of neighbouring districts.
Burhan Wani, the Hizbul Mujahideen commander, was killed in a gunfight with government forces in July 2016, triggering off massive civilian unrest in which around 100 people were killed and more than fifteen thousand were injured, mostly with pellets.
Over the last three years, security forces have killed more than 450 militants but locals continue to sign up for militancy.