By Hilal Mir
SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) - At least three militants were killed in a gunfight with Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir, the army and police said Saturday.
Vijay Kumar, a senior police officer, told reporters that the gunfight broke out during a search operation in Ariparigam village of Pulwama district, a militancy stronghold in southern Kashmir.
He said among the slain militants was Qari Yasir, the regional chief of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad outfit, who was allegedly involved in an attack in Pulwama last February that killed 39 Indian soldiers and brought the South Asian rivals on the brink of a nuclear war.
KJS Dillon, an Indian army commander, who also addressed reporters, said the militants were plotting an attack on the eve of India's Republic Day on Sunday.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.
According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.