SRINAGAR: A top police officer, who climbed the ladder of Jammu and Kashmir’s counter-insurgency grid to head the Special Investigations Team (SIT), was killed in an ambush by suspected militants near Bandipora district Wednesday.

Officials said Altaf Ahmad, a sub-inspector who headed the SIT tasked with technical surveillance of militants, was shot multiple times on Wednesday when he was reportedly on the trail of a top Lashkar-e-Toiba militant, Abu Qasim, in a private car in north Kashmir.

Qasim carries a reward of Rs 20 lakhs on his head. However, sources said, the militants had laid an ambush and Altaf unknowingly walked into the trap.

"A pick-up vehicle halted in front of his Toyota car at Gund Dachin area. Two gunmen emerged from the vehicle who started firing indiscriminately at the car. Altaf suffered critical injuries while the suspects escaped from the area," sources said.

Altaf, who joined Jammu and Kashmir police as a constable in 2007, was critically injured in the attack and succumbed to his injuries at the Army’s 92 Base hospital in Srinagar's Badami Bagh.

Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, DGP, J&K Police, K Rajendra, IGP Kashmir, Javed Mujtaba Gilani, top Army, paramilitary and senior intelligence and civil administration officials paid floral tributes to the officer at Police Control Room here.

IGP Gillani said Altaf put "tremendous efforts" in his work which led to many successful counter-insurgency operations in the state over the last seven years, "He was one of our best officers. His death is a big setback for the force,” Gillani said.

A senior J&K police officer, under whom Altaf has worked, said the slain officer got three promotions between 2007 to 2012 for his "remarkable" professional capabilities, "He can be credited with tipping off about 50 per cent of counter-insurgency operations that have taken place in J&K since 2007," the officer said.

Terming the death of Altaf as a "huge setback" for counter-insurgency operations in J&K, the officer said it will be "difficult" to find a replacement of Altaf. "He was popularly known as 'Altaf Laptop' for his tech-savvy nature. Officers who have worked with him hold him in high regard for dealing a lethal blow to insurgency in Kashmir starting 2008," he said.

Sources said Altaf also played a key role in exposing a high profile militant network involving a J&K Police constable, Abdul Rashid Shigan. "The ring was operational for around two years before Altaf exposed it which led to Shigan's arrest along with two other militants in 2012," sources said.