Indian forces battled with separatist rebels in Kashmir and killed one of the leaders of a group that was blamed for the deadly 2008 Mumbai terror attack, police said Wednesday.
Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Abdullah Uni was killed late Tuesday in a town near Srinagar, the main city in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, area police Chief Imtiyaz Hussain said.
Uni, a Pakistani citizen, had planned and carried out attacks against Indian troops, politicians and civilians since 2005, when he entered Indian-held Kashmir from the Pakistan-controlled side of the divided Himalayan region, Hussain said.
He was "the most wanted militant, and our target No. 1 among all the active militants in Kashmir," said senior police officer Shiv Murari Sahai, calling Uni's death a "severe blow" to Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The rebel group has not confirmed Uni's death and representatives were not available for comment.
Lashkar-e-Taiba is one of a number of groups fighting since 1989 for Kashmir's independence or merger with Pakistan. It has been blamed for several attacks in India including the 2008 siege that killed 166 people in Mumbai. India accuses Pakistan of supporting the group even though it is officially banned there.
Indian forces launched Tuesday's operation to capture Uni after receiving a tip that he was in the town of Sopore.
Sahai said Uni, as the group's top commander in Indian-controlled Kashmir, handled the group's finances and "would also motivate and recruit people into Lashkar."
Police accused him of involvement in the April assassination of Kashmiri religious leader Moulvi Showkat Ahmed Shah, who headed the puritanical group Jamiat-e-ahle Hadith. Lashkar-e-Taiba denied any role in the killing, instead accusing another almost-defunct militant group in a rare instance of blaming fellow rebels.
India accuses Pakistan of funding and training the separatist militants. Islamabad denies that and says it gives only moral and diplomatic support.
More than 68,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the armed conflict in Indian Kashmir.