In a major success, security forces in Jammu and Kashmir killed two Pakistani terrorists, including Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) top commander Ghazi Abdul Rashid who was the mastermind of the 14 February Pulwama terror attack in which 44 CRPF jawans were martyred, in an encounter in the same of South Kashmir area on Monday. Ghazi, a trusted man of JeM patron Azhar Masood, reportedly motivated and trained a Kashmiri youth, Adil Dar, to ram his explosives-laden car into a convoy of CRPF vehicles. The nearly 10-hour-long Pulwama encounter also left four Army personnel, including a Major, and a civilian killed.

The second slain militant was identified as Bilal Ahmed Naik, who was a local Kashmiri.

The encounter took place after a joint team of the Army, the CRPF and the J&K Police cordoned off the area on Sunday night.

The martyred soldiers are Major Vibhuti Shankar Dhoundiyal, Havaldar Sheo Ram, and Sepoys Ajay Kumar and Hari Singh.

Deputy Inspector General of Police, South Kashmir Range, Amit Kumar was injured during the ongoing encounter. Reports said he had received a bullet injury in his leg. A lieutenant colonel of the Army has also been injured, it is learnt.

After Major Chitresh Singh Bisht, who died while defusing a mine in Rajouri on Saturday, Major Dhoundiyal is the second officer of the rank from Dehradun to be attain martyrdom in Kashmir this month.

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An Army spokesman said martyred Sepoy Hari Singh belonged to Rewari district of Haryana, while Havaldar Sheo Ram was from Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan and Sepoy Ajay Kumar was from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh.

An injured Army soldier, Gulzar Muhammad, has been evacuated to Army’s 92 Base Hospital in Srinagar.

The civilian who died was Mushtaq Ahmad Bhat. He was injured in the crossfire and later died in hospital.

Weapons and war like stores were also recovered from the encounter spot. Security forces were searching the area, suspecting more terrorists to be hiding there, at the time of writing.

The police urged locals not to venture into the area. “#Pulwama encounter update: 02 #terrorists killed. Arms & ammo recovered. Identities & affiliations being ascertained. Encounter is in #progress. #Citizens are requested not to venture towards encounter site as it is a #prohibited zone,” the Kashmir Zone police posted.

Ghazi was an aide of the Pakistan-based JeM patron, Masood Azhar, and had infiltrated into India in mid-December to train Kashmiri terrorists in IED blasts. He was radicalising and training local terrorists in the Valley.

A large number of miscreants gathered at the encounter spot and indulged in pelting stones at security forces. The police made announcements on loudspeakers asking them to move away.

Ghazi, 32, was trained in terror activities by the Taliban in Afghanistan. He returned from Pakistan’s North Waziristan in 2010 and was working as a trainer for JeM recruits in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). He was sent here by Masood Azhar to avenge the killings of his two nephews, Talah Rasheed and Usman, in 2017 and 2018, respectively in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district. Ghazi had built a strong network of over ground workers in South Kashmir, and security forces were trying to track him down ever since the reports of his infiltration reached them.