A top militant commander was killed and a policeman injured in a nocturnal gunfight in Samboora village of Pampore township in Pulwama district, the police said on Monday.
A police official said that following a tip-off, a joint party of army's 50 Rashtriya Rifles, police and central reserve police force cordoned off Karnabal Samboora village late on Monday night and launched searches.
"The search operation turned into a gunfight after militants holed up inside a house opened fire on the forces. Improvised explosive devices were later used to blow up the house," he said.
A source said that on Tuesday morning, the forces recovered the body Jaish-e-Muhammad divisional commander, Noor Muhammad Tantray.
The source said that at least three militants are believed to have managed to escape from the gunfight site "taking advantage of darkness."
Residents of Samboora said that they heard gunshots at around 11 pm on Monday and later they came to know that a militant had been killed in a gunfight.
"We couldn't sleep for the entire night due to loud bangs of bullets and other artillery," they said.
Deputy inspector general of police, south Kashmir range, SP Pani told Greater Kashmir that the slain JeM militant was "playing a pivotal role in Jaish and was the chief architect behind the attack on a BSF camp near Srinagar airport this year."
"We launched this operation following specific inputs about presence of militants in the area .There were no protests at the gunfight site. The operation ended without any disruption," Pani said.
Asked whether other militants escaped from the cordon, the police officer said there are chances that some other militants might have escaped taking advantage of darkness.
Meanwhile, director general of police SP Vaid in a tweet said that the slain militant, along with his associates, was planning to attack a convoy on Srinagar-Jammu highway.
MULTIPLE FUNERAL PRAYERS, GUN SALUTE
Thousands of people participated in the funeral procession of Tantray at his native village Darganaie Gund in Aripal tehsil of Pulwama district.
As the body of Tantray reached there, thousands of people staged massive protests and participated in his funeral prayers which were offered at least four times due to huge rush of people, a witness said.
As the slain militant was being laid to rest, a group of five masked militants appeared there and fired many rounds in the air to offer gun-salute to their fallen colleague, the witness said.
Defying restrictions, hundreds of youth from Darganaie Gund, Aripal, Wagad and several other adjoining villages took to streets and held protests after Tantray's killing. The protesters also pelted stones on the forces and raised anti-India and pro-freedom slogans in Tral, Kakapora, Pampore and Pulwama areas.
Meanwhile, a complete shutdown was observed in Tral, Awantipora and Pampore townships to mourn Tantray's death.
As per a report, the traffic on Srinagar-Jammu highway however plied smoothly, though contingents of police and paramilitary forces were deployed on the highway, including at Aripal, to prevent any major gatherings.
The mobile internet and train service remained suspended in southern Kashmir areas as a "precautionary measure", an official said.
However, the train service between Srinagar to Budgam and Budgam to Baramulla operated as per schedule, he said.
In a statement, a police spokesman said: "In a significant breakthrough, forces acting on a specific input cordoned off cluster of houses at Samboora which resulted in a fierce gun-battle, leading to elimination of top JeM commander Noor Muhammed Tantray."
"Noor, who was a convict in a case registered some time in 2003 in Delhi, and was serving his sentence at central jail Srinagar until he was out on parole in 2015. Consequently, he remained in Tral and became a major over-ground worker of JeM in the belt. In July 2017, after the Aripal encounter, where three JeM militants were killed, Noor went underground and soon became the key man of JeM in coordinating and organising attacks at different places," the police statement read. "The accused was one of the chief architects of the attack on BSF camp near Srinagar airport this year. He was also wanted in a number of terror offences in south and central Kashmir."