Odishatv Bureau

Srinagar (J-K): A Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) commander was killed and another militant arrested during an encounter with security forces on the outskirts of the city here on Sunday, police said.

Acting on specific information about the presence of militants in Rangreth near the old airfield here, the security forces launched a cordon and search operation in the area, a police official said.

While the forces were conducting searches in the area, the militants opened fire at them. The forces retaliated, and an encounter ensued, he said.

In the exchange of fire, a militant was killed. He was identified as HM commander Saifullah, who was wanted by security agencies in several cases of militant attacks, the official said.

Another militant was arrested from the spot, he said.

Incriminating material, including arms and ammunition, was recovered from the encounter site, he said.

Hizbul Mujahideen's operational commander Saifullah Mir was killed in the gunfight with police and security forces which was a serious blow to "homegrown militancy" in the Kashmir Valley.

A top police officer said the operation was based on hard intelligence generated by the police.

The gunfight broke out after security forces, who had cordoned off the area and launched a search operation on basis of specific information about presence of terrorists, came under fire from the hiding terrorists and retaliated.

Saifullah, also known as Dr. Saifullah, had succeeded Riyaz Naikoo as the HM chief when Naikoo was killed by security forces in his native Beighpora village of Pulwama district on May 6 this year.

He was the last of the 10 most wanted local militant commanders who had served as "icons" of homegrown militancy in Kashmir.

Naikoo who had succeeded Burhan Wani, whose killing in a gunfight on July 8, 2016 in Kokarnag area of Anantnag district had triggered public unrest which lasted for nearly six months.

As many as 98 protesters died in clashes with the security forces during the summer unrest while scores were blinded either completely or partially by the use of pellet guns by the security forces.

However, such unrest was not seen after Naikoo's killing and Saifullah's death is also likely to come as a fait accompli to his militant associates.

Saifullah had planned a career in medicine. His mother, Sarwa Begum, who lives in Malangpora village of Pulwama district overlooked by the Indian Air Force base, told reporters that her son wanted to become a doctor.

He finally managed obtain a diploma in repair and handling of medical equipment.

This earned him the prefix 'Dr' by residents of his village.

Before joining the militant ranks, Saifullah served for three months in Kashmir's prestigious tertiary care hospital, the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) in Soura area of Srinagar.

The killing of Saifullah is rated as a big success by the security forces.

Asked by reporters as to how a most wanted militant commander like Saifullah could manage to come so close to Srinagar city from his south Kashmir operational base, IGP, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar said: "Let us not waste time in asking how he came here. Let us celebrate his killing."

(With Agency Inputs)

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