Thousands of people have attended the funeral of Zakir Musa, described as “India’s most wanted” militant, who was killed in Indian-administered Kashmir.
The army said that Musa was shot dead on Thursday after they trapped him in a house in south Kashmir’s Tral district.
Musa split from the Hizbul Mujahideen, one of the largest groups fighting Indian rule in Kashmir, and declared his allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2017.
His killing has already brought protests in the Muslim-majority state.
Zakir Musa, whose real name is Zakir Rashid Bhat, was a close aide of Burhan Wani, a charismatic Kashmiri militant leader, whose killing by security forces in 2016 sparked widespread protests. More than 100 civilians lost their lives during four months of clashes with security forces in the Kashmir valley that year.
Local media have said that Zakir Musa’s death is the “biggest victory” for the Indian armed forces since the killing of Wani.
It is unclear how many fighters were in his Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind group.
The one-line army statement confirming his death read: “Op Dadasur (Pulwama). One terrorist killed. Terrorist identified as Zakir Musa. Weapons and warlike stores recovered. Operation over.”
Correspondents say more than 10,000 people have attended Musa’s funeral in Tral.
Kashmir-based journalist Sameer Yasir told the BBC that officials are braced for violence following the confirmation of Musa’s death.
However, with news of the killing trickling out, unrest has already started, he says.
“Protesters have clashed with police at many places since morning. Many people shouting ‘Musa Musa Zakir Musa’ also gathered at the only highway that connects Srinagar with the rest of India and threw stones at forces. The police have been retaliating with tear gas shells and pellet guns,” Mr Yasir added.
Mobile internet services have been suspended and a curfew imposed in the region. Schools and colleges have been asked to remain closed on Friday.
Five things to know about Kashmir
- India and Pakistan have disputed the territory for nearly 70 years – since independence from Britain
- Both countries claim the whole territory but control only parts of it
- Two out of three wars fought between India and Pakistan centred on Kashmir
- Since 1989 there has been an armed revolt in the Muslim-majority region against rule by India
- High unemployment and complaints of heavy-handed tactics by security forces battling street protesters and fighting insurgents have aggravated the problem
India blames Pakistan for fomenting violence in the region by supporting militancy – a charge Pakistan denies.
Since 1989, Kashmir has been convulsed by regular episodes of violence that have killed more than 70,000 people, including many Kashmiri Hindus targeted by militants in the early 1990s.