SRINAGAR: The killing of a top Kashmiri commander and his comrade by New Delhi forces has sparked massive protests and violent clashes across the Indian-controlled Himalayan valley.
Police spokesman Manoj Pandita said on Tuesday that Abu Dujana, of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group, was gunned down with an accomplice during a pre-dawn operation in Pulwama district, which is located to the south of the region’s summer capital Srinagar.
Police Inspector-General Muneer Ahmed Khan confirmed that the two were killed after troops cordoned off on a tip the southern village of Hakripora during the early hours of Tuesday.
The two trapped people fired at the Indian troops, triggering a gunfight that lasted at least two hours, Khan said.
Dujana, who had orchestrated several attacks against Indian forces in southern Kashmir, had a cash reward of 1.5 million rupees (about $23,400) on his head.
A police statement described the killing as a great achievement for India. “LeT chief commander Abu Dujana of Pakistan along with his accomplice killed in Harkipora Pulwama, huge achievement for police and SF (security forces),” the statement read.
Witnesses said one of the two houses from where the militants fired was set ablaze by Indian soldiers and another was blown up using heavy explosives.
The killing has prompted authorities to suspend internet and train services across the Muslim-majority region. At least one protester was killed and several injured when clashes broke out in several places across the valley following the incident.
The civilian casualties were caused as hundreds of protesters tried to march on the site of the firefight, throwing stones and chanting slogans such as, “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom.”
Large protests against Indian rule spread to several other places across Kashmir, including the main city of Srinagar.
India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in entirety and have fought three wars over the region.
India accuses Pakistan of funding and training militants in the Indian-controlled Kashmir to carry out armed attacks, a charge denied by Islamabad.
The Indian-ruled Kashmir has seen a sharp increase in anti-India protests since government forces shot and killed Burhan Wani, a popular Kashmiri militant commander, a year ago.
New Delhi has deployed some 500,000 soldiers to the disputed region to further boost security of the borderline and enforce a crackdown on pro-independence demonstrations in its share of Kashmir, where anti-India sentiments are high.
About 70,000 people have been killed in India’s crackdown on the movement since 1989.