Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir police claimed that a militant, Mohammad Usman Haider, who was killed in a string of recent sniper attacks on security personnel was killed in south Kashmir’s Tral area a few days ago. 

According to police, Haider is the nephew of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar and was heading the module that was carrying out sniper attacks on forces in the Valley for the past 10 days. The police said the killing of Haider is a major success for security agencies, particularly after he was identified as the deputy of the Jaish’s sniper squad that has recently entered the Valley.

Usman was the son of Azhar’s elder brother Ibrahim, who was involved in the hijack of the IC-814 in 1999 to free the JeM chief. He is believed to have infiltrated the Valley less than a year ago and had laid low since, possibly to revive the terror outfit founded by his uncle. However, for the past nearly two weeks, he became active by creating a four-member sniper cell. Two militants were also killed in the encounter on Tuesday.

In an audio clipped by the group, JeM chief is heard saying that he was upset over his nephew's death and that human life has become meaningless.

Security agencies have, meanwhile, sounded a full alert in anticipation of reprisal attacks by Jaish. Usman’s younger brother Umer is also in the Valley since July, sources said. Usman killed eight security force personnel in over a dozen attacks. 

As Usman and his other militant colleagues took out security personnel one-by-one, they soon became the biggest security challenge in the Valley. The Inspector General of Police issued a review of the ‘snipers’ and of the security provided to the VVIPs. 

Even the army chief issued a statement a statement saying that the force was looking into reports of snipers entering the Kashmir Valley to target defence personnel. 

Another official who was coordinating the operations against the JeM militants on ground, said the house in which the militants were hiding has been blown up and the process of recovery of weapons is still in process. 

While the weapons handled by Usman have not been recovered yet. He is believed to have been firing from a NATO grade weapon which has a range of around 170 meters. Once recovered, the weapons will be sent to a ballistics laboratory to find more about the nature of the weapon and possibly the place from where it was procured. 

A total of three militants were killed in the encounter of which two, apart from Usman, were locals. The gunfight ensued Chankitar village of Mandoora area of Tral on Tuesday afternoon, soon after a joint team of Army’s 42RR, SOG and 180 BN CRPF launched a cordon and search operation.

As the joint team of government forces intensified searches, the militants hiding in the area fired upon at government forces, triggering off an encounter. 

Militant groups like Jaish-e-Muhammad, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen, Al Qaeda affiliate Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind, and now Al Badr have become increasingly active in Kashmir after forces took out almost the entire cadre of Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen in 'Operation All Out' last year.