Top Lashkar-e-Toiba militant killed in Srinagar encounter

SoldierActing on a tip-off, police launched an operation Wednesday night and cordoned off the Fatehkadal neighbourhood in the old city. Reuters

In a major success for the J-K police, a most-wanted Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) commander who was also one of the last few operating in the Valley was killed in an encounter Thursday.

The killing of Hilal Ahmad, popularly known as Hilal Moulvi, in the Fatehkadal area was the first time in more than three years that a militant was eliminated in a police raid in Srinagar.

Acting on a tip-off, police launched an operation Wednesday night and cordoned off the Fatehkadal neighbourhood in the old city. As the police zeroed in on the target house, Hilal opened fire resulting in a brief encounter.

"He threw grenades towards the police and also opened fire," said police spokesman Manoj Kumar. "The police party retaliated and in this gunfight he was killed".

A mufti who had passed-out from Deoband, Hilal was also known as the Azhar Masood of Kashmir for his fiery speeches before he joined LeT and went on to head the group's operations in north Kashmir.

Police say Hilal was involved in the killing of a National Conference sarpanch in Palhallan and also a counter-insurgent in Kunzer. He also masterminded several grenade attacks in and around Pattan, they say.

A complete shutdown was observed in Palhallan and Pattan to protest against Hilal's death. Hundreds of people took to the streets in Palhallan raising pro-freedom slogans.

Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani said his death was a "great loss to the freedom movement".

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