New Delhi: In a major blow to secessionists in Jammu and Kashmir, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operational commander Naveed Jatt, the man who planned and carried out the killing of journalist Shujaat Bukhari, was gunned down by security forces in central Kashmir’s Budgam district early on Wednesday morning.

“There were two militants and both were killed in the encounter by security forces. It is confirmed that one of those militants was Naveed Jatt alias Abu Hanzallah who was affiliated with the LeT," the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) confirmed.

Jatt escaped from a hospital in Srinagar in February along with a fellow-terrorist after shooting dead their police escorts.

Jatt was a resident of Pakistan’s Punjab province and, following his induction into the Lashkar, became a close aide of LeT commanders Abu Dujana and Abu Qasim, both of whom were killed by security forces earlier this year.

Wednesday’s exchange of fire began at 5.45am in Chandoora, Budgam, between the terrorists and personnel from the CRPF, the army’s Rashtriya Rifles and the special operations group of the state police. With stone-pelters trying to disrupt the encounter, two CRPF personnel suffered serious injuries.

Jatt’s killing comes a day after security forces gunned down Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind chief Zakir Musa’s close aide Shakir Hassan in Pulwama district.

Senior intelligence officials said that even as both killings came as huge victories, especially as Jatt was wanted for plotting and carrying out journalist Shujaat Bukhari’s murder earlier this year, the flow of terrorists into the valley was unlikely to stop.

“It is a fact that radicalization is extremely high in Kashmir. But at the same time, the number of teenagers who are going in for training at the militant camps is alarming. These children and youth are inducted, trained quickly within a month and sent off on encounters, where they are bound to get killed. So we are fighting an on-going battle here," said a senior intelligence official, requesting anonymity.

Defence experts added that from a historical standpoint, the ongoing situation in the Valley was within manageable limits.

“As far as Pakistan is concerned, from 1990-96, the Kashmiri youth went across, got trained and came back. Then Pakistan started pumping in terrorists and the ratio of Pakistan to Kashmiri fighters was 60:40. When the first ceasefire took place and better counter-infiltration measures were put in place, the number of Pakistani terrorists reduced and Kashmiri terrorists increased as they are indigenous. So what we see now is much less than what was earlier," said Lt. Gen (retd) H.S. Panag, a former Indian Army officer and defence expert.

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