Lakhvi's nephew among six ultras killed in encounter

At least six Lashkar-e-Toiba militants, including the nephew of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, and an IAF commando were killed in an encounter in Hajin area of North Kashmir's Bandipora district on Saturday.

Defence spokesman Col Rajesh Kalia said six militants, including LeT commander Mahmood Bhai, were killed in the gunfight. An Indian Air Force Garud was also killed and an army soldier injured in the operation, he said. The Garud commando is the special forces unit of the IAF.

Sources said the encounter broke out in Chandergair village of Hajin, 32 km from here, after a joint team of the Army's 13 Rashtriya Rifles, the special operations group (SOG) of the J&K police and 45 Battalion of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) launched a cordon-and-search-operation following specific inputs about the presence of a group of heavily-armed militants.

"As the search approached the suspected spot, the hiding militants fired upon them, which was retaliated, triggering an encounter," they said.

J&K police chief Shesh Pal Vaid confirmed that six militants, including Lakhvi's nephew, were gunned down. "Weapons and ammunition recovered. One of the terrorists named Owaid is son of Zakir Rehman Maki and nephew of Zakir Rehman Lakhvi," he tweeted.

In another tweet, Vaid said LeT commanders Zargam and Mehmood were also killed in the operation. He said all the six slain militants were Pakistani nationals.

Encounter hotbed

Hajin has witnessed several encounters between militants and security forces in the past year. On October 11, two IAF commandos and an equal number of militants were killed while six security personnel were injured in a similar encounter in Hajin.

A police officer told DH that it was a group of nine LeT militants led by Mehmood Bhai which had made Hajin their base for two years. "Mehmood took over when Musaib (another close relative of Lakhvi) was killed by the forces in Hajin in January," he said.

Mehmood Bhai is the third man from the Lakhvi family to be killed in Kashmir. In 2007, Lakhvi's 20-year-old son Mohammad Qasim was killed in an encounter with the army and the J&K police. Lakhvi is among the three globally prosecuted terrorists named by India (Hafiz Saeed and Dawood Ibrahim being the other two) and the European Union in their joint statement to combat terrorism.

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