Burhan Wani"s successor among eight militants killed in Valley encounters

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[ May 27, 2017 ] Srinagar: Eight militants, including Sabzar Bhat, believed to be the successor to Hizbul commander Burhan Wani, and a civilian were killed in separate encounters across the Kashmir Valley on Saturday.Sabzar was among two militants killed in an encounter in Tral area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Saturday morning. Sources said security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Soimoh village of Tral, 36 kms from here, on Friday night after militants opened fire at a patrol party of the 42-Rashtriya Rifles.“As the search party was closing in on the house where the militants were hiding, the ultras opened fire, triggering an encounter,” they said.Reinforcements were rushed to the area to ensure that the militants don’t escape under the cover of darkness, sources said and added early in the morning the gun battle resumed and after heavy exchange of fire between the two sides, Sabzar and one of his associate were killed.Sabzar reportedly made one last phone call to his family members when he got injured and asked for forgiveness. “Forgive me if I"m wrong. We have been cordoned," the report quoted him as saying. He was a close aide of slain Hizb-ul-Mujhaideen commander Burhan Wani who was killed in an encounter on July 8 last year. At least 100 civilians have been killed in protests and clashes with security forces since Burhan died.The other slain militant has been identified as Faizan, a teenager who had reportedly joined militant ranks recently. Sources said that the third militant, a foreigner, escaped from the cordon. As soon as news about the gunfight spread to neighbouring villages, dozens of protesters marched to the site and pelted stones at the security forces.A civilian was killed while more than 30 protesters were injured during the subsequent clashes, reports said. Inspector General Police, Kashmir Muneer Khan said the civilian died in ‘cross-firing’ between the holed up militants and the security forces.While terming the killing of Sabzar as a major success, police said it is the biggest setback to the Hizbul since unrest began last year after the killing of Wani.A spontaneous shutdown was observed in all districts and major towns of the Valley and protests started across Kashmir as soon the news about Sabzar’s killing spread. Authorities suspended mobile Internet services to contain the spread of “rumours.” The Hurriyat Conference called for a two-day valley wide shutdown against the killing of Sabzar.Earlier, six militants were killed by the army along the Line of Control (LoC) in Rampur sector of Uri in Baramulla after they tried to infiltrate into the Indian side. Sources said troops noticed the movement of a heavily armed group of militants along the LoC, who were trying to infiltrate into Indian side on Friday night."As the troops challenged the infiltrators, they opened fire and in the retaliatory action, six of them were neutralized," they said.According to an Army statement, forces laid an ambush for the militants at around 7.30 pm on Friday after receiving specific input about their movements inside Indian territory.Confirming the killing of six infiltrators, Defence spokesperson Col Rajesh Kalia said a search operation was underway to determine no other militants were hiding in the area. The identity of the slain militants was not known immediately as the bodies were yet to be recovered by the army.The encounter comes a day after Army foiled Border Action Team (BAT) strike along the LoC in Uri sector, killing two militants and recovering war like stores."Relentless operations by security forces have defeated desperate attempts by Pakistan and Pakistan-sponsored agents to spread terror in the state in the run up to the holy month of Ramzan,” said the defence spokesman of the Northern Command said.