SRINAGAR: Indian forces have killed the leader of an Al Qaida affiliated militant group in Kashmir, police said on Friday, triggering protests in parts of the state.

Zakir Rashid Bhat, 25, was trapped by security forces in a three-storey house in southern Kashmir late on Thursday, said a senior police officer, adding that the house was set ablaze during the operation.

“As we were clearing debris from the house, he tried to get up. Our troops fired at him and he was killed,” said the officer, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to media.

India has stepped up an offensive against militants in the region since a suicide attack in February killed 40 troopers in Kashmir.

Protests by supporters of Bhat broke out in parts of Kashmir on Thursday and there were reports of demonstrations early on Friday, the police officer said.

Fearing more unrest, authorities said schools were closed and railway services suspended in the affected areas.

Bhat, a former commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, founded his own group and declared its association with Al Qaida in 2017.

Also known as Zakir Musa, he was seen as a successor to Burhan Wani, a popular Hizbul Mujahideen commander whose death in 2016 sparked clashes that left 90 civilians dead.

— Reuters