SRINAGAR: Six Lashkar-e-Toiba militants including nephew of 26/11 Mumbai attacks mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and top commander and an Indian Air Force (IAF) Garud commando were killed in a fierce gunfight in Hajin area of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday.

A police official said police, CRPF and army men launched a major cordon and search operation at Chandergeer village of Hajin in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district early this morning after receiving inputs about presence of a big group of LeT militants including top commanders there.

He said the IAF Garud commandos also participated in the operation go gain more operational experience. As the troops were conducting searches, they came under heavy gunfire from militants hiding in the area.

The official said the security forces returned the fire, triggering a heavy exchange of gunfire. “During the gunfight, militants also lobbed hand grenades on the security personnel”.

The area rattled with gunshots and blasts throughout the day.

“Additional security personnel were rushed to the area to tighten the siege and prevent the militants from escaping from the area,” the official said.

J&K DGP S P Vaid said six Lashkar-e-Toiba militants were killed in the gunfight, which ended this evening.

He said among the slain militants is Owaid son of Zakir Rehman Makki and nephew of Zakir Rehman Lakhvi, mastermind of Mumbai terror attacks.

Rehman Makki is the second in command of Jamat ud Dawah, which is led by Hafiz Saeed. Vaid said two top LeT commanders Zargam and Mehmood Bhai were also killed in the encounter.

“All the slain militants belonged to Pakistan. It is a great success for the security forces,” he said.

Defence spokesman in Srinagar, Colonel Rajesh Kalia said an IAF Garud commando was also killed and an army man injured in the day long gunfight. He said the injured army man has been hospitalised.

It was the second instance in last two months when the special forces unit of IAF had suffered casualties in anti-militancy operation in Hajin area of Bandipora district.

Earlier, on October 11, two IAF Garud commandos Cpl Neelesh Nayan and Sgt Milind Khabar were killed in an encounter with militants in Hajin area of Bandipora district. Two LeT militants were also killed in the encounter.

A police official said Mehmood Bhai was the top commander of LeT and was mastermind of all attacks in north Kashmir.

“He was also involved in the attack on off-duty BSF jawan Mohammad Rameez Parray at Hajin area of Bandipora on September 27 this year. The BSF jawan, who was on leave, was killed and four of his family members injured in the gun and knife attack by militants,” he said.

He said Mehmood was a key commander of the outfit, who was also instrumental in transporting militants from north Kashmir to south Kashmir.