A Pakistani militant was captured on Wednesday, a first since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, shortly after he and an accomplice killed two BSF soldiers by ambushing a paramilitary convoy on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway in Udhampur.
Police officers said the militant from Pakistan’s Faisalabad, identified as Usman alias Qasim Khan, is suspected to be from the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group which carried out the horrific 2008 attacks in Mumbai where 166 people died.
The 20-year-old became the second Pakistani militant to be captured alive after Ajmal Kasab, the lone 26/11 attacker who was subsequently convicted and hanged to death.
Usman’s partner was shot dead in the attack on Wednesday morning that left two BSF soldiers dead and nearly a dozen wounded.
They hurled grenades and fired at the convoy when it reached Samroli near Udhampur, about 85km from Jammu, on the way to Srinagar. As the BSF personnel fought back, Usman fled towards a village in the hills.
In the small village, the armed man first took hostage three civilians in a school and forced them to give him food.
“He was hungry, so we stopped. There we got together, forced him to the ground and unarmed him,” said Vikramjit Singh, one of the hostages.
Another hostage, Rakesh Kumar, said they misled the militant when he asked them to take him to a safe place. “He kept asking about the fate of his colleague. He also pleaded ‘Mujhe mat pakdo, mujhe mat pakdo (Don't catch me, don't catch me)’ when we pinned him down and took away his AK-47.”
As he was brought down from the mountainous village bound by ropes, Usman looked hassled in a black shirt and trouser but smiled when he answered questions from journalists.
“My partner and I came to India through the jungles about 12 days ago … We ran out ration in three days. I was very hungry,” he said, before security personnel hooded his face and took him away.
The attack was worrying for security forces as it followed the July 27 terrorist attack in Punjab’s Gurdaspur that left seven people dead and renewed firing by Pakistan Rangers from across the border in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Gurdaspur attackers, too, were believed to be Pakistanis who had sneaked into India through a porous border area in Jammu. Reports said Usman and his partner could be from the same batch of militants that carried out the attack in Gurdaspur.
The militant captured (centre)was identified as Usman Khan and believed to be from Pakistan.
Security analysts said Usman could belong to the terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad, led by Maulana Masood Azhar, which has a strong influence in Faisalabad.
Wednesday’s the attack began a short while after a batch of pilgrims passed the spot on their way to the holy shrine of Amarnath. Police officers, however, ruled out any link between the annual Amarnath Yatra and the attack on the BSF convoy.
The attack was also a first in Udhampur district in over a decade. “This attack signifies the failure of the government as it took place at a spot which had become militancy-free,” former chief minister Omar Abdullah said.
It came at a time of increased ceasefire violations by Pakistan across the LoC.
A woman was wounded on Wednesday morning in a fresh round of firing by Pakistan Rangers in Sabjiyan sector along the LoC in Poonch. The firing targeted civilian areas.
India and Pakistan are reportedly scheduled to hold their first national security adviser-level talks on August 23-24, where the focus would be on ending cross-border terror.
Congress in-charge for Jammu and Kashmir said it was futile to hold talks with Pakistan during an increase in hostilities.
“Ever since the new government has come in, there have been attacks happening every day. It is impossible for people to live on the border along Rajouri, Poonch and other areas bordering Pakistan,” she said.
(With inputs from agencies)