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SRI­NA­GAR: Banned ter­ror out­fit Hizbul Mu­jahideen suf­fered a set­back Thurs­day when its top com­man­der Manaan Bashir Wani, who shunned a PHD course in the AMU to join mil­i­tancy, was killed along with his as­so­ciate in a gun­bat­tle with se­cu­rity forces in north Kash­mir, po­lice said.

The 27-year-old Wani, who quit PHD stud­ies in Al­lied Ge­ol­ogy and joined the mil­i­tant ranks in Jan­uary this year, was killed at Shat­gund vil­lage in Hand­wara area of Kup­wara dis­trict dur­ing the en­counter on Thurs­day morn­ing, they said.

An­other Hizb mil­i­tant Ashiq Hus­sain, who hailed from Lan­gate area of Hand­wara, was also killed in the op­er­a­tion dur­ing which two se­cu­rity force per­son­nel sus­tained in­juries, a po­lice of­fi­cial said. The en­counter broke out in the early hours in Shat­gund fol­low­ing spe­cific in­tel­li­gence about the pres­ence of Wani along with two oth­ers in the vil­lage. Giv­ing de­tails, the of­fi­cial said po­lice, other se­cu­rity forces per­son­nel were fired upon by the holed up mil­i­tants re­sult­ing in ex­change of fire which con­tin­ued un­til 11 am.

The po­lice made re­peated an­nounce­ments through pub­lic

ad­dress sys­tem ap­peal­ing the mil­i­tants to sur­ren­der, he said.

There was a lull in fir­ing at around 9 am, prompt­ing the po­lice to ini­ti­ate search op­er­a­tion at the en­counter site, but it had to be sus­pended af­ter fir­ing re­sumed 15 min­utes later, the of­fi­cial said. Out­stand­ing in stud­ies, Wani, who got his ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion in Jawa­har Navodya Vidyalay and Sainik School Manas­bal, was con­sid­ered to be the chief re­cruiter for mil­i­tants in north Kash­mir area fol­low­ing elim­i­na­tion of some of the top ul­tras in the re­gion over the past two years.

Af­ter the due le­gal process, Wani’s body was handed over to his fam­ily for last rites in which over 10,000 peo­ple par­tic­i­pated at his na­tive vil­lage at Tekipora in Lo­lab area of Kup­wara dis­trict. As soon as news of Wani’s death spread, peo­ple took to streets in protest and at some places they re­sorted to stone pelt­ing on the se­cu­rity forces.

Au­thor­i­ties shut down schools and other ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions in north Kash­mir as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure for main­tain­ing law and or­der.

In­ter­net ser­vices were also snapped in the re­gion while many ar­eas ob­served a spon­ta­neous shut down. Sep­a­ratist lead­ers have called for a com­plete shut­down on Fri­day as a mark of trib­ute to the slain mil­i­tant.

Army sol­diers cor­don off the area near the house where top Hizbul Mu­jahideen com­man­ders were hid­ing dur­ing an en­counte in Hand­wara

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