Top rebel commander killed in Indian-administered Kashmir

Following the gunning down of the insurgent commander, the atmosphere has been tense in the region with several reports of violent clashes between protesting villagers and security personnel.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the predominantly Muslim Kashmir valley, one of the world's most heavily militarised areas.

A top commander from the largest rebel group in Indian-administered Kashmir was killed in a gun battle with government forces on Saturday, police said. 

Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, head of the Hizbul Mujahideen separatist group, was killed in an overnight gunfight in Tral area, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Kashmir's capital, Srinagar. 

Hizbul Mujahideen is the largest indigenous rebel group fighting against Indian-rule in the Himalayan territory since an armed rebellion broke-out in 1989. 

One of Bhat's colleagues was also killed in the gun battle, which erupted late Friday after government forces cordoned off a village following an intelligence tip-off.

"Yes, both of them were gunned down and the operation is still going on," police chief Shesh Pal Vaid said.

High strung atmosphere

Police said hundreds of villagers tried to break the cordon by throwing rocks at security forces, resulting in clashes that left at least 10 injured.

There were reports of violent clashes spreading to other parts of the restive valley in the aftermath of the commander's death.

On Saturday, in a separate incident, the Indian army claimed ti have killed six militants who had infiltrated across the border from Pakistan in the Himalayan region.

Bhat succeeded charismatic militant leader Burhan Wani after he was killed in a gunfight in July, which triggered months of anti-India protests in which nearly 100 people died. 

Wani's popularity grew after he used social media to attract new recruits for his militant outfit.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the predominantly Muslim Kashmir valley, one of the world's most heavily militarised areas, where most people favour independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British rule in 1947 but both claim the territory in its entirety.

Several armed rebel groups are fighting against Indian rule, with tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, killed in the nearly three decades-old conflict.

TRTWorld and agencies