NEW DELHI, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Police in India's northwest state of Jammu and Kashmir claim they killed Abdul Rehman, a senior commander of the militant Lashkar-e-Toiba group.
Rehman, known as Naveed and also Talood, was shot along with another LeT member in their hideout near Handwara, a town of around 11,000 population and close to the Pakistani border.
Security forces said they recovered two AK-47 rifles and rounds of ammunition, one UBGL (underbarrel grenade launcher), three UBGL grenades and three Chinese grenades, along with dry cells and several military field radios.
Both men died during a joint operation by local and state police against the militants, local police said.
The death of Rehman is a "big achievement for the Indian security forces and a major setback for the LeT," Kashmir police Inspector Gen. Shiv Murari Sahai said.
Rehman and the other LeT member, whom they named as Muslim Bhai, are Pakistani nationals and had been active in the area for four years, police said.
Rehman was instrumental in infiltration and distribution of LeT cadres from Pakistan into north Kashmir. He also helped recruit local people including women who arranged hideouts and collected information about Indian security forces movements.
Their deaths were announced just after police in the Kashmir's main city, Srinagar, said three suspected militants and a policeman were killed in a gun battle this week.
The shootout happened in a local market on the outskirts of Srinagar when a police patrol was ambushed by men firing guns.
For more than 20 years Indian police and security forces have been fighting Lashkar-e-Toiba, based in Pakistan but an outlawed terrorist group since early 2002. Before then, they openly solicited money in public for their fighter across the border in Kashmir.
LeT's sole purpose had been what they claimed was the unification of Indian-controlled Kashmir, a disputed territory between Pakistan and India. Most of their activities were limited to skirmishes within Jammu and Kashmir until the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001.
Pressure by the United States forced Pakistan to proscribe LeT in 2002.
But many questions have been asked of the Pakistani government about how much the state seeks out Lashkar-e-Toiba members to put them on trial. Since being banned, the group has launched terrorist attacks further afield, deeper into India. It was blamed for the bomb attacks in the Indian capital of New Delhi in October 2005 that killed more than 60 people.
India also has claimed members of LeT are responsible for the deadly 2008 attacks in Mumbai which killed 174 people, including nine gunmen. The attack sent security relations between India and Pakistan -- always delicately balanced -- into a downward spiral from which both governments still are trying to recover.
A problem for security forces in both India and Pakistan is the splintering of LeT since it was banned in Pakistan.
Lashkar-e-Toiba was formed soon after the birth of its parent religious organization in Pakistan, the Markaz Dawa ul Irshad in the late 1980s. The Markaz -- Center for Preaching -- was established in town of Muridke, near Lahore, by Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, a former professor of engineering at the University of Punjab.
The Markaz claims it no longer has contact with LeT.