New Delhi: In a major breakthrough in the fight against terror, top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo, on the run for eight years, was on Wednesday killed in an encounter with security forces in his home village in Kashmir's Pulwama district, officials said.
Jammu and Kashmir authorities have already snapped mobile internet services across the Valley as a precautionary measure in anticipation of a possible law and order problem, said the police, adding strict restrictions have been imposed on the movement of people.
Security forces engaged with militants in two gun-battles in south Kashmir district -- one in Sharshalli village where two unidentified militants were killed and the other in Beighpora in Awantipora where they finally killed Naikoo who was holed up with another terrorist. His accomplice attempted to escape by charging at security forces but was also killed.
The gunning down of the top terrorist commander comes three days after eight security personnel, including two Army officers Colonel Ashutosh Sharma and Major Anuj Sood, were killed in Handwara.
News of the killing of 32-year-old Naikoo, who carried a reward of Rs 12 lakh on his head and had escaped the police thrice, led to some incidents of people pelting stones at security forces.
Indian Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand confirmed that two terrorists have been killed by security forces in an operation in Beighpora. "This takes to four the number of terrorists killed by us in 24 hours. The names of the terrorists are not being released. Weapons have been recovered," he said.
Giving details of the operation, officials said security forces zeroed in on Naikoo's hideout on Tuesday. But instead of initiating an immediate operation, they fortified their cordon around the area and plugged all routes so he could not escape as he had done thrice earlier.
Army units were pushed along with the special operations group of Jammu and Kashmir Police at dawn, the officials said. A gunfight broke out after Naikoo and his accomplice fired at the security personnel.
CRPF and police forces laid an outer cordon to keep the public away from the encounter site.
Shortly after noon, one of the militants came out from the house firing indiscriminately at security forces in his attempt to escape. However, he was shot dead in the retaliatory fire.
It was not immediately known whether that was Naikoo or his accomplice.
(With inputs from PTI)