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Indian troops kill top rebel commander in Kashmir fighting

Indian government forces killed a top rebel commander in Kashmir during a gunbattle Sunday in the disputed region’s main city, police said, calling it a major success against the rebels’ long fight against Indian rule.

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The dead commander, Saifullah Mir, was the chief of operations of the region’s largest rebel group, Hizbul Mujahideen, which has spearheaded an armed rebellion against Indian rule for decades.

Inspector-General Vijay Kumar said police and paramilitary soldiers launched an operation Sunday in Srinagar in a neighborhood in the city’s outskirts based on a tip that Saifullah was sheltering there. He said a gunfight ensued in which the militant commander was killed and his suspected associate was nabbed.
Saifullah took over the leadership of the group in the portion of Kashmir controlled by India after its previous chief there, Riyaz Naikoo, was killed in a gun battle with Indian troops in May.

The overall head of the Pakistan-based Hizbul Mujahideen is militant commander Syed Salahuddin, whom Washington placed on a list of global terrorists in 2017.

India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir in full but rule in part. New Delhi has long accused Pakistan of supporting an armed insurgency in the Himalayan territory, a charge Islamabad denies.

Last August, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government reorganised the state of Jammu and Kashmir, splitting it into federally-administered territories, promising better governance.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down development work, and members of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been increasingly targeted by militants.

Last week, three young BJP workers were shot dead by militants in southern Kashmir.

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