WEB DESK: Security forces killed a top commander from Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in troubled Indian Kashmir on Thursday, striking a blow against the outlawed militant group, the region’s police chief said.
Abdul Rehman, known as Abu Qasim, was killed during a gunfight with security forces overnight outside Kulgam town, 89 kilometres (55 miles) south of the main city of Srinagar, Inspector General Javid Gillani said.
“We laid a cordon yesterday and he was shot and killed when he tried to break through,” Gillani told AFP.
“This is a major setback for the LeT and its operations,” he said.
The militants are seeking independence for the territory or its merger with Pakistan.
Originally from the Pakistani city of Bahawalpur, Qasim had been operating in Indian Kashmir against security forces for the last five years, and was responsible for several major attacks, police said.
Qasim was also key coordinator between the LeT and other militant groups fighting hundreds of thousands of security forces deployed in the disputed region, police said.
Gillani said police and the army launched an operation on Wednesday after receiving information on Qasim’s location, and was killed during the gun battle at about 2am.
“He hurled a few grenades and also opened fire which we retaliated against,” Gillani told the NDTV network.
India blames a group of LeT militants from Pakistan with carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 166 people dead.
There was no confirmation from the LeT or other militant groups of Qasim’s death.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. But both claim the restive Himalayan territory in its entirety and have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.
India often accuses Pakistan of training and arming rebels, while Islamabad says it only provides diplomatic and moral support for the Kashmiri people’s struggle for self-determination.
Tens of thousands have died in the conflict, mostly civilians.