Hizbul Mujahideen militant Tariq Pandit — close aide of most wanted Hizbul commander Burhan Wani— has been arrested, police and army officials said on Saturday.
“We have arrested Tariq Pandit from Pulwama. We have also recovered weapons from him,” said deputy inspector general of police Nitish Kumar.
Pandit had featured in pictures with Wani whose many associates have been killed in various encounters. However, Wani, who is a youth icon, is still at large and carries a bounty of `10 lakh on his head.
Pandit was one of the 11 militants, led by Burhan Wani, who had posted photographs brandishing assault rifles on social networking sites such as Facebook last year.
Earlier in the day, army and the police officials had claimed that Pandit had surrendered. However, top officials later clarified that he was arrested.
Army spokesperson NN Joshi said Pandit was apprehended in a coordinated operation on Newa-Pinglana road.
“A joint mobile vehicle checkpost was placed by the Army and police in the morning based on intelligence inputs regarding militant movement. He was arrested by a team of Rashtriya Rifles battalion and one 9 mm pistol and two Chinese grenades were seized from him,” he said.
Kumar said, “His arrest is a big blow to the Hizbul Mujahideen and other millitants are eager to surrender. We will welcome who ever surrenders and will rehabilitate them.”
An FIR has been registered and the militant has been handed over to the Pulwama police, the spokesperson added.
“Pandit was a self-styled area commander and is a very important catch. His interrogation should definitely lead us to the Hizbul Mujahideen network in south Kashmir,” the officials said.
In April last year, another close aide of Wani, Naseer Ahmad Pandit, was gunned down by forces in Shopian
district. Police said Pandit had joined the terror group along with his cousin Naseer Pandit, a cop-turned-terrorist last year.
(With PTI inputs)