Officials on Saturday confirmed death of three Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists, including the mastermind behind the killing of BJP worker Rakesh Pandita in June.
According to the official's statement, the terrorists were gunned down in an encounter with security forces in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on Saturday.
Security forces personnel had launched a cordon-and-search operation in the upper reaches of the forest area of Nagbaeran Tral in the south Kashmir district following inputs about the presence of ultras there, they said.
The officials said the search operation turned into an encounter when the terrorists fired upon the security personnel, who retaliated.
"In the ensuing gunfight, three terrorists affiliated with JeM outfit were killed," they said.
Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kashmir, Vijay Kumar said one of the slain ultras has been identified as Wakeel Shah.
"Shah is one of the terrorists included in the recently released list of top 10 terrorists wanted by the police. He was involved in the killing of BJP leader Rakesh Pandita. It is a huge success," the IGP told reporters at a press conference at the Army's Victor Force headquarters at Awantipora.
GoC, Victor Force, Major Gen Rashim Bali also addressed the media.
Kumar said there was no collateral damage in the operation.
"It was a very difficult operation and concluded without any collateral damage. We cordoned off the target area, offered them surrender, but they fired and were killed in retaliation," he said.
The IGP said the terrorists used to exploit the families of the Gujjar community where they were hiding.
In a stern message to the ultras, he said there was no hiding place for them.
I want to tell the terrorists and their families that do not think that you will hide in the mountains after killing civilians and no one will do anything. Our force is professional and we will track you there also and neutralise you like we have been,” Kumar said.
Major Gen Bali said the militants were operating in the area for a long time.
“A solid message from us has gone out through this operation that there is no place for them, not even in the forests. We will get information about them and we will neutralise them. We will continue eliminating them by launching suitable operations whenever there is any information,” he said.
The GoC said two AK 47 rifles, an SLR, a UBGL and a huge amount of ammunition were recovered from the encounter site.
Asked if there were inputs on the presence of more RPGs in the valley after it was recovered from the site of an encounter in Kulgam on August 13 where Pakistani militant Usman was killed, IGP Kumar said the security forces have no information about the presence of such a weapon in the hinterland.
“We have activated our intelligence and will neutralise any such threat if there is. The forces are ready and the counter-insurgency grid has been made stronger, and if there is any such threat we will neutralise that timely,” he added.
Repling to another question, Kumar said so far, only one foreign terrorist was killed this year who had “recently infiltrated”.
“The foreign terrorist killed in Bandipora was a recent infiltration, all the others were either six months ago or one-and-a-half years ago,” he said.
(With PTI Inputs)