In a major development, Hizbul Mujahideen’s operational commander in Kashmir Yasin Yatoo alias Mehmood Ghaznavi was killed along with two other militants in a 16 hour-long gunfight in Anweera village of Shopian district on Sunday.

Yatoo was one of the longest serving militants in the Valley. He had taken over the command of Hizbul Mujahideen after the killing of Burhan Wani in July last year.

“Top HM commander Yasin Itoo @ Ghaznavi among the killed terrorists in Shopian encounter,” Deputy Inspector General of Police (DGP) south Kashmir S P Pani tweeted.

Yatoo was a resident of Chadoora in Budgam district and had joined militancy in the year 1997.

The other two militants killed in the gunfight have been identified as Umar Majeed and Sheikh Irfan-ul-Haq. The encounter also lead to the death of two soldiers.

After receiving intelligence inputs that a group of two to three militants were hiding in the village, security forces including Rashtriya Rifles, state police and the CRPF surrounded the area on Saturday.

As the security forces surrounded the hiding militants, they were fired upon, triggering the gunfight, police said.

(With IANS inputs)