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India claims top militant killed in Kashmir

Indian security forces have killed a top commander from Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in the disputed province of Kashmir. There has been no confirmation from militant group or sympathizers.

Indian police said Thursday that a commander of the LeT was killed in a gunbattle with Indian forces in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

"We have neutralized a top Lashkar commander Abu Qasim during an operation in Khandaypora in Kulgam district in the wee hours today," Inspector General of Police Kashmir S J M Gillani told reporters in Srinigar. "It is a major success as Qasim was directly or indirectly involved in all major LeT attacks in Kashmir over the past three years."

Qasim, whose real name was Abdul Rehman, was killed about 89 kilometers (55 miles) south of the main city of Srinagar, police said.

Police and the army launched an operation on Wednesday after receiving information on Rehman's location. He was killed at about 2 a.m. (2030 UTC) Wednesday, officials said.

"He hurled a few grenades and also opened fire which we retaliated against," Gillani told the NDTV network.

Originally from the Pakistani city of Bahawalpur, the 28-year-old Rehman had been operating in Kashmir against Indian security forces for the last five years, and was responsible for several major attacks, officials said.

He was also key coordinator between the LeT and other militant groups fighting security forces deployed in the mountainous region, police said.

"This is a major setback for the LeT and its operations," Gillani said.

Rehman had been one of the top most wanted militants in the state for whom the state police had announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh (14,000 euro).

There was no independent confirmation from militants fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir.

India's uneasy grip on Kashmir

An Indian policemen stands guard as they block road along the way to the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan.

Public opposition to Indian rule remains widespread in the mostly Muslim territory but is now mainly expressed through street protests.

Since 1947, Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan but is claimed by both countries.

Militant groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence or annexation by Pakistan for more than a quarter century. At least 68,000 people have been killed in the armed rebellion and

subsequent Indian crackdown.

jar/kms (AP, PTI, AFP)

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