SRINAGAR: Jammu and Kashmir Police today asked Pakistan-based militant outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammad, to collect the body of its chief, Masood Azhar’s nephew who was killed along with two other militants in an encounter in south Kashmir last night.

“They have owned the man and we will ask them to collect the body. The matter will be taken up (with the neighbouring country) through proper channels,” chief of police in Kashmir, Munir Khan, told reporters during a press conference here.

Officials said Talha Rasheed, nephew of Masood Azhar, was among three militants, including a local, who were gunned down in an encounter with government forces in Aglar village of Pulwama district last night.

Earlier, a local news gathering agency, quoting Jaish spokesperson Hassan Shah, said Talha was the nephew of Masood Azhar. The other two militants were identified as Muhammad Bhai, Divisional Commander of Jaish and Waseem Ahmed, a resident of Drabgam in Pulwama.

An Army soldier, Lance Naik Shyam Sunder, of 40 Rashtriya Rifles, was also killed in the gunfight. A US-made M4 carbine was also recovered from the site of encounter, a residential house which was blasted by forces to kill the militants hiding there.

“ It (rifle) is used by armies working with the NATO. It is also used by the special forces of the Pakistan army," Major General BS Raju, General officer commanding (GOC) of the Victor Force said.

“So we have a reason to believe that this weapon was given by Pakistan army to JeM cadres," Gen Raju, who was flanking the Kashmir police chief during the press conference here, added.

The encounter comes in the midst of special representative, Dineshwar Sharma’s visit to Kashmir where he is holding meetings with political leaders, civil society groups, representatives of trade bodies and other groups.

On the first of his three day visit to the Valley, Sharma yesterday met “several apolitical groups including representatives of Gujjar and Bakerwal associations, fruit growers, youth sports associations and some lesser-known non-governmental organisations at Hari Niwas here.

In an attempt to break the deadlock with the Hurriyat Conference which has announced that it will stay away from any ‘dialogue’ related meetings, the state government reportedly asked veteran Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani, to meet New Delhi’s representative.

A Hurriyat leader said a phone call was made to Geelani on Sunday but “Geelani sahib listened and then hung up”. The leader refused to divulge what transpired during the phone call and the contours of the offer that was made to Geelani.

Invitations to meet Sharma have also been sent out to various mainstream political parties, civil society groups, trade bodies, entrepreneurs, prominent citizens, etc. Sharma will be flying to Jammu after completing his three-day visit to Kashmir tomorrow.

(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR)