For six months, a special team of the Jammu and Kashmir police were tracking Riyaz Naikoo, the Hizbul Mujahideen Chief, India's most wanted terrorist.
''Every time we would go close to him, we would not be able to hit him. He had multiple hideouts, particularly in his own area where he would move from one village to another,'' said Dilbag Singh, Director General of Jammu and Kashmir police.
There were often nerve-wracking moments. ''For about 15 days, we were very close to him and we started working on him on a day and night basis,'' said Mr Singh. The real breakthrough came just three days before Riyaz Naikoo was eliminated in Beighpora, his village in the Pulwama district. ''We were finally able to pick up some of the contacts who were very close to him and who were meeting his day to day logistics requirements - including food - and even the one who made the hideout for him.'' That's when Jammu and Kashmir's top cop knew Naikoo's days were marked. ''We were 100 per cent sure that today, we are on target.''
When the encounter did finally happen after a cordon was laid laid in the early hours of Wednesday, Riyaz Naikoo did not prove to be a great fighter. ''Initially his associate was killed and he kept shifting from one place to another'' in the home in which he was surrounded, the police chief told NDTV. Subsequently once the end came, he must have fired some rounds. ''He did fire. He did fire at the troops,'' Mr Singh said. But this counter-attack was not threatening beyond a point. ''With the kind of stature he had, that kind of [real] fight was missing.''
The elimination of India's most-wanted terrorist in south Kashmir marks a big success for security forces, which had been on the Hizbul Mujahideen commander's trail for a total of 12 years.
Riyaz Naikoo, 35, who used his tech skills to cover his tracks, had over a dozen hideouts in the south Kashmir region, where he was born. He was the longest surviving terror commander in Kashmir. His luck ran out after the police tracked down his closest contacts.
"It was the result of long, long hard work. A number of times we got very close, but he got away. We approached the hideouts, went there, searched there and came back empty-handed," Mr Singh shared.
In house-to-house searches, two possible hideouts were marked.
When the two-day encounter started on Tuesday, one security agency pulled out of the operation when Riyaz Naikoo could not be found during daylong searches. But the police remained.
"But the ground team was pretty sure. We had to believe our officers. We got the security agencies back, they stayed all night. We were 100 per cent sure he was in that house," the police chief said.
"The plan was you will not come back without getting him."
The forces were prepared for the possibility that there were underground tunnels in the house.
The elimination of Naikoo is an important step in the security forces' fight against terror in Jammu and Kashmir.
The teacher-turned-terrorist had been recently offered the job of fronting an umbrella group of Pakistan-based terror outfits, TRF. The idea was to have a local like Naikoo as the joint terror commander.
"The killer is gone. The man responsible for killing a large number of civilians, migrant labour... who kidnapped and killed policemen, the killer of peace and prosperity. He is dead," Mr Singh said.
Naikoo had evaded the forces since 2012, during which time he recruited hundreds of innocent young men into terror. His death would make a great difference to local recruitment into terror, the police officer asserted.