Srinagar, July 1 (IANS): In a major success, security forces on Saturday used explosives to blast a house in Anantnag district in Kashmir Valley killing two holed-up LeT militants, including top commander Bashir Lashkari who was behind the killing of five policemen and an officer last month.
Two civilians, including a woman, were also killed in the cross-fire between security forces and the hiding militants in Brenthi Batapora village in Anantnag district. The civilians were part of a stone pelting crowd of protesters attacking the security forces during the operation.
Security forces said the gunfire exchanges at the shootout site in Brenthi Batapora village had stopped after the house was blasted.
"Two militants have been killed whose bodies were seen under the debris of the house that was brought down to ensure that militants did not escape," a senior police officer said.
"The identification process of the slain militants is underway, while a search operation at the encounter site is going on to ensure there are no other militants hiding," the officer added.
One of the two slain militants is said to be Bashir Lashkari, a top LeT commander who carried a reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head.
He belonged to Kokernag area. The other slain militant is believed to be Azad Ahmed Malik alias Tada who belonged to Arwani village area of Anantnag.
Lashkari, according to security forces, had masterminded and carried out an attack in Achabal area of Anantnag last month in which six policemen, including Station House Officer (SHO) Feroz Dar, were killed and their bodies mutilated.
A middle-aged woman identified as Tahira and a youth, Shadab Ahmad, were killed in the cross firing between the security forces and the hiding militants in Brenthi village, according to a police spokesman.
While the woman was killed in the morning, the youth was hit by a bullet. He was shifted to a Srinagar hospital where he succumbed to injuries.
Massive protests had broken out in the village as stone pelting protesters clashed with the security forces near the gunfight site.
Twelve people were injured during the clashes.
There was a standoff between the holed up militants and the security forces in the village because some civilians were present inside the house where the militants were hiding.
A senior police officer told reporters that 17 civilians were rescued from the shootout site before the security forces started the final assault against the holed up militants and blasted the house.
The cross-firing had initially begun after security forces launched an operation in the village following a tip-off about the militants hiding in the village.
Additional forces were rushed to the spot, including paramilitary troops and a helicopter, to secure the safe release of the civilians trapped in the house, police said.