Bodies of top LeT militant, 2 others recovered from encounter site in Kashmir

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Junaid Ahmad Mattoo gunned down two policemen in broad daylight at Anantnag bus stand in June last year.

Bodies of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) member Junaid Ahmad Mattoo and two others were recovered on Saturday from the encounter site in Arwani village of south Kashmir.

Besides 24-year-old Mattoo alias ‘Jana’, the other two bodies were those of 18-year-old Adil Mushtaq Mir alias ‘Nana’ and 20-year-old Nisar Ahmad Wani.

Hailing from Khudwani village of Kulgam, 24-year-old Mattoo joined militancy in June 2015. He had a meteoric rise within the Lashkar group and was appointed commander of south Kashmir after he gunned down two policemen in broad daylight at Anantnag bus stand in June last year.

While Mir hailed from Frasbal area of Pampore, Wani was from Heff Shremal of Shopian district. Both joined militancy after the death of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen poster boy Burhan Wani last year.

Police had laid a cordon around a house at Malik Mohalla in Arwani village at 8 a.m. on Friday following an intelligence tip-off about the presence of the three militants there. The first engagement with terrorists took place at 10 a.m., after which additional forces were rushed to the spot.

By late afternoon, firing stopped but two houses caught fire during the encounter. After the fire tenders doused the raging flames, police and other security forces, which were already embattled by pelting of stones, began a search operation in the rubble.

The security forces were also fired upon from the crowd that was indulging in pelting of stones, police said, adding that the Lashkar-e-Taiba militants were desperate to save Mattoo.

The search operation was also hampered after six policemen, including officer Feroz Ahmed Dar, were gunned down at Achabal area, 20 km south of the encounter site. This act was a revenge by Lashkar-e-Taiba for the killing of Mattoo and two others.

During Friday’s encounter, two civilians were also killed. In the morning itself, a civilian identified as Mohammad Ashraf Khar, 34, was killed in the crossfire between the security forces and the militants.

Khar, a resident of Kharpora Arwani area, was rushed to the district hospital at Bijbehara where he was declared brought dead, police said.

Ahsan Mushtaq, 15, was killed after he was hit by bullets near the site of the encounter, the police said.

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