Indian police say they've killed key Kashmiri rebel leader

SRINAGAR: Indian police said Tuesday that they have killed the operations head of a major militant group in the Indian portion of Kashmir in a gunbattle.

The Jaish-e-Mohammed group's operations chief, Saifullah, and one of his associates were killed Monday night following intelligence information that they were at a house in Srinagar, the main city in the Indian portion of Kashmir, said police officer Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani. The identity of the second rebel killed was not immediately known.

There was no independent confirmation of the incident.

Jaish-e-Mohammed has been active in Kashmir for more than 15 years. India blames the group for a series of attacks in the Himalayan region and Indian cities, including the attack on India's Parliament in 2001 that brought nuclear rivals India and Pakistan to the brink of a war.

Gillani said that both of the militants who were killed were residents of Pakistan, and that Saifullah, who used just one name, had operated in the region for the past four years.

He said the militants had rented a room in Srinagar as students after shifting their base from northern Kashmir to Srinagar recently. There was no statement from Jaish-e-Mohammed or any other rebel group about the incident.

Police detained the house's owner after the brief gunbattle.

On Tuesday, shops and businesses were closed in Saraiballa, a major business hub in Srinagar. Police used tear gas to prevent people from gathering at the gunbattle site and detained at least four civilians.

Gillani refuted allegations by locals that the militants were killed while in police custody.

Kashmir is divided evenly between India and Pakistan. Rebel groups have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989 for the Himalayan region's independence or its merger with Pakistan. More than 68,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the armed uprising and subsequent Indian crackdown.