Indian government forces shot dead the leader of restive Kashmir’s largest militant group on Sunday, authorities said.
Hizbul Mujahideen leader Saifullah Mir – also known as Musaib and Doctor Saif, as he treated militants injured in encounters with Indian forces – was killed in a gun battle in the Rangreth area of Srinagar near the main airport, police said.
One of his associates was captured alive, they added.
Militant groups have fought for decades for Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan, and enjoy broad popular support.
The fighting has left tens of thousands dead, mostly civilians, since 1989.
“The militant killed in the gunfight is Hizbul Mujahideen’s chief operational commander Dr Saifullah,” Vijay Kumar, inspector general of police in Kashmir, told reporters at the site of the encounter.
“It’s really a very big achievement.”
Mir replaced former Hizbul Mujahideen chief Riyaz Naikoo, who was killed by government forces in the southern Kashmir valley during a two-day gun battle in May.
Mir, 31, who was mostly active in Kashmir’s southern districts of Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian, studied biology and worked as a technician before joining the militant outfit in 2014, officials said.
Counterinsurgency operations in Kashmir – where India stations more than 500,000 troops – had been stepped up since the start of India’s nationwide coronavirus lockdown in late March, with more than 100 militants killed so far this year, police said.