SRINAGAR: Two Lashkar-e-Toiba militants, who were allegedly involved in the recent killing of a BSF jawan from the Valley, have been gunned down in an encounter in Hajin area of north Kashmir.

Two commandos of the elite Garud Commando Force of Indian Air Force, who were on a training course with the Army, were also killed in the early morning shoot-out.

Officials said a joint team of J&K Police, Army’s Rashtriya Rifles and CRPF laid a siege around Rakh area of Hajin in Bandipora district today following inputs about the presence of a group of militants in the area.

Police said militants opened fire on forces at around 5 am.

“In the initial exchange of gunfire, three soldiers suffered injuries while two militants have been gunned down. Two of the soldiers later succumbed,” DIG North Kashmir, Virdi Kumar Birdi said.

A senior officer identified the deceased commandos as Cpl Neelesh Nayan and Sgt Milind Khabar.

The slain militants have been identified as Abu Bakr alias Ali Baba and Nasrullah Mir, a resident of Hajin. Both militants were affiliated with Lashkar-e-Toiba outfit, “They were behind the September 28 killing of a BSF man who was on vacation at his home in Hajin,” Virdi said.

Four family members of BSF constable Mohammad Ramzan Parray were also injured when a group of militants barged into their home and fired indiscriminately.

Following a heavy exchange of gunfire early in the morning, additional reinforcements were dispatched to the area around which a siege was laid amid reports of presence of more militants in the area.

There were reports that two more militants may have managed to escape from the encounter area but the police denied them.

Internet services have been suspended in Bandipora and all the educational institutions have been shut down by the government amid fears of protests in the district against the killings.

Hajin area in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, which comprises of more than two dozen villages with a surging population, has posed a fresh challenge for security forces dealing with a renewed phase of insurgency in Kashmir Valley.

After having restored a semblance of normalcy in south Kashmir and killing some prominent militant commanders, security agencies are on the look-out for a group of foreign militants, believed to be from Pakistan-based Jaish’s ‘Afzal Guru squad’, in north Kashmir areas.

The members of the Guru squad, formed by Masood Azhar-led Jaish after the execution of the 2001 parliament attack, have carried out some of the most daring attack, recent being the suicide attack on a BSF installation near the Srinagar airport in which a BSF officer was killed.

( Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR of shutdown in Srinagar following braid cutting hysteria)