Top rebel commander killed in Kashmir gunbattle
May 27 2017 10:58 AM
Sabzar Ahmad Bhat headed the Hizbul Mujahideen group.


A top commander from the largest rebel group in Indian-administered Kashmir was killed in a gunbattle with government forces on Saturday, police said. 
Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, head of the Hizbul Mujahideen militant group, was killed in an overnight gunfight in Tral area, some 40 kilometres south of Kashmir's capital, Srinagar. 
Hizbul Mujahideen is the largest indigenous rebel group fighting against Indian-rule in the Himalayan territory since a armed rebellion broke-out in 1989. 
One of Bhat's fighters was also killed in the gun battle, which erupted late on Friday after government forces cordoned off a village following an intelligence tip-off.
"Yes, both of them were gunned down and the operation is still going on," police chief Shesh Pal Vaid told AFP.
Police said hundreds of villagers tried to break the cordon by throwing rocks at security forces, resulting in clashes that left at least 10 injured.
There were reports of violent clashes spreading to other parts of the restive valley in the aftermath of the commander's death.
Bhat succeeded charismatic militant leader Burhan Wani after he was killed in a gunfight in July, which triggered months of anti-India protests in which nearly 100 people died. 
Wani's popularity grew after he used social media to attract new recruits for his militant outfit.
On Saturday, in a separate incident, the Indian army said they had killed six militants who had infiltrated across the border from Pakistan in the Himalayan region.
Indian army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said the armed militants had snuck into the Indian side from across the line of control -- the de-facto border between the two countries -- when soldiers intercepted them, triggering a gunfight. 
"Six terrorists were killed after the army foiled an infiltration bid in the Rampur sector," Kalia told AFP, referring to an area around 100 kilometres north-west of the region's main city Srinagar. 
He said the troops were combing the area to ensure that no other militants were in hiding.
The deadly clash happened a day after the army said it had shot dead two militants in the same area after they tried to enter the Indian side. 
Indian and Pakistani soldiers have in recent weeks clashed along many areas of the border, with the Indian army earlier this week making a rare admission that it was proactively targeting Pakistani positions that it believed were aiding militants to cross over to the Indian side. 
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the predominantly Kashmir valley, one of the world's most heavily militarised spots, where most people favour independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Last updated: May 27 2017 01:08 PM

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