Troops in Indian-administered Kashmir killed a top rebel commander Tuesday, sparking violent protests that left at least one civilian dead and 30 injured. The authorities also shut down the internet and schools as the protests raged in South Kashmir's Pulwama and nearby districts.
Abu Dujana, a senior leader of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, was gunned down along with one other person in Harkipora village in Pulwama district, police spokesperson Manoj Pandita said. India claims the group was responsible for a 2008 attack that left 166 people dead in India’s commercial capital of Mumbai.
Dujana, who was wanted by the Indian government that offered a US$23,000 bounty on his head, and his associate Arif Lilhair were trapped in a house in Pulwama after a joint team of security forces launched an operation at Hakripora.
An hours-long gunfight followed and the house was later blasted by the soldiers. The bodies of the militants are being retrieved from the debris, the police said.
Following the murders, local residents defied the security lockdown to protest, with troops using tear gas, pellet guns and live bullets against the crowd, according to the Hindustan Times, leaving one civilian, Firdous Ahmad, dead and dozens of others injured.
"The encounter was going on, people from various villages assembled at the site and forces directly opened fire in which (Firdous Ahmad) was hit on his face (and) died on the spot," Muhammad Yusuf, a resident of Pulwama, told Al Jazeera.
The government ordered the closure of all educational institutions in Kashmir and suspended mobile internet services Tuesday.
Khan added that security forces will not back off despite growing protests and outcry from global rights bodies for restraint by India to avoid civilian deaths.
“Stone pelting or no pelting, disruptions or no disruptions, our operations will continue,” he said. “In spite of our warnings and requests, people on behest of terrorists tend to come in between encounter(s)...that is how they get injured or killed.”
Unrest has simmered in Kashmir since Burhan Wani, a popular leader, was killed just over a year ago, sparking clashes that have left more than 90 civilians dead.
Dujana took over LeT following the death of Abu Qasim in 2008.