Top Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Waseem Ahmad Shah and an associate were killed in a gunbattle with security forces in a Pulwama village in south Kashmir Saturday morning. In the list of the Valley’s 12 most wanted militants, Shah was one of 11 militants in a group photograph uploaded on social media by militant commander Burhan Wani a year before he was killed in July 2016.
Police said a civilian was also killed, caught in the crossfire. But people protesting the killing of the militants alleged that he died in firing by security forces — a charge officials rejected. In a separate incident Saturday afternoon, a policeman was killed and another injured when militants fired on a police vehicle that was part of the security detail assigned to PDP legislator Abdul Majeed Padder in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district.
Officials said the militants opened fire on the police vehicles at Damhal Hanjipora around 4.30 pm while the MLA was returning to his village. S P Vaid, Director General of Police, told The Indian Express that militants attacked the police vehicles from an orchard at Damhal Hanjipora. “In the firing, one police driver was killed and another injured.’’ He said an operation was launched to track down the militants.
Vaid said it was not an attack on the MLA or his cavalcade. At the time of the attack, Padder was in his village. “I was at my home when this attack took place. It was not an attack on my cavalcade,’’ he said. In Pulwama, a joint team of police, Army and paramilitary personnel cordoned off Litter village early Saturday morning after they were informed about the presence of militants. As the security forces closed in, the trapped militants opened fire.
Waseem Ahmad Shah and his associate Nasir Ahmad Mir, a resident of Litter who had joined the militant ranks this year, were killed in the gunbattle. “Both the LeT terrorists killed in a clean operation. Well done JKP and other SF boys,” DGP Vaid tweeted after the operation.
Shah, who used the code name Usama, was from Heff village in Shopian. He joined the militant ranks in March 2014 and was associated with Hizbul Mujahideen before joining the Lashkar-e-Toiba. Soon after the gunbattle, youths took to the streets of Litter, hurled stones and clashed with police. Gulzar Ahmad Mir (25), a resident of Lassipora Pulwama, died and several others were injured.
Police said the civilian was killed in crossfire between militants and security forces. “A 25-year old civilian, identified as Gulzar Ahmad Mir, lost his life in crossfiring,” police spokesman and SP Manoj Kumar said. “Another civilian, Mohammad Ashraf Mir, also sustained injuries. He is undergoing treatment at SKIMS, Soura,” he said.