A police spokesman identified one of the militants as Musaib Mushtaq of Khrew who was involved in the killing of a school peon Javid Ahmad of Lurgam last month

Two members of the “hit squad” of Jammu and Kashmir’s (J&K)’s largest indigenous insurgent group Hizbul Mujahideen were killed in an exchange of fire with security forces at Khrew in Pulwama district on Friday, police said.

A police spokesman said the squad was involved in the killing of a school peon last month and many other incidents of violence in the Pulwama district.

The two were killed amid a spike in violence in the Valley that has left 10 people including a policeman dead this month. A worker of the Apni Party, which was floated after the revocation of J&K’s semi-autonomous status in 2019, was killed in Kulgam on Thursday. As many as 23 workers and functionaries belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party, including three this month, have been killed in the Valley over the last two years.

In a statement, the J&K Police identified the slain as Musaib Mushtaq and Muzamil Ahmad Rather. “An AK rifle and pistol was recovered from the slain militants.”

This was the latest in a series of gunfights as security forces have intensified counter-insurgency operations in the Valley and killed 91 militants in Kashmir so far this year. This month, five militants have been killed in separate operations.

Defence ministry spokesman Emran Mosavi said that operation in Khrew was launched at 1:00 am. “They (security forces) drew a heavy volume of fire from terrorists hiding in the village. The forces quickly isolated the house(where they were holed up), ensuring that other innocent civilians were not caught in the crossfire. The terrorists were asked to surrender time and again but refused. Intermittent exchange of fire continued throughout the night.”

He said that around 6:30 am, one of the two tried to escape from the house by firing on the troops, but he was soon neutralised. “The second terrorist was contained in the house by the troops on the ground and was later neutralised.”