Top Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Abu Qasim, accused of masterminding an ambush in Udhampur that left two BSF personnel dead, was killed in a skirmish with security forces in Kulgam district of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday.
Qasim, a Pakistani national, was killed early in the morning after security forces launched an operation in Khandipora village of Kulgam following information about his presence in the area.
According to the army, close to 200 soldiers from the Rashtriya Rifles and police units participated in the operation that began at 4.45pm on Wednesday. A fierce gun battle erupted after the troops located Qasim at 2.15am on Thursday.
Qasim lobbed grenades in a bid to break the cordon created by the security forces but he was killed by troops from 9 Rashtriya Rifles, officials said. His body was found by troops.
Police officials said Qasim was trained in Pakistan and hailed from Bahawalpur in Punjab province.
“We have neutralised top Lashkar commander Abu Qasim during an operation in Khandipora in Kulgam district…It is a major success as Qasim was directly or indirectly involved in all major LeT attacks in Kashmir over the past three years,” inspector general of police SJM Gillani told reporters.
“One militant (Qasim) was killed while others managed to get back inside,” he said, without giving details.
Who was Abu Qasim?
Qasim alias Abdur Rehman was accused of masterminding the ambush on a Border Security Force (BSF) convoy in Udhampur on August 5 in which two troopers were killed and 10 more injured.
He was also the handler of Pakistani militant Naveed, who was captured by villagers after the ambush. Naveed’s accomplice Noman was killed in a gun battle.
Qasim allegedly arranged transportation and accommodation for Naveed and his accomplices before the ambush. Naveed told security officials Qasim briefed them before the attack and gave them money for expenses.
The state police had offered a bounty of Rs 10 lakh for Qasim and the National Investigation Agency had announced a similar reward for information leading to his capture or killing.
Qasim was active in Jammu and Kashmir since 2010. For the past three years, he headed a LeT “division” and had planned and executed all major attacks blamed on the Pakistan-based terror group.
He was involved in a shooting at Pampore on July 7, 2012 that killed ?one person, a strike on an army convoy near Hyderpora on June 24, 2013 that killed eight soldiers and injured 16, the killing of noted cardiologist Sheikh Jalal at Pampore in 2013 and the killing of Altaf Ahmad, a sub-inspector of Jammu and Kashmir Police, at Bandipora on October 7 this year.
Officials said Qasim’s killing was a “major blow” to the LeT and would hit coordination between different militant groups.
Earlier this week, it was believed Qasim had been trapped during an operation in the forests of Bandipora in north Jammu and Kashmir. The move to apprehend Qasim was intensified after his involvement in the recent killing of the sub-inspector.
18 militants killed since Sept 1
Since September 1, troops have killed 18 militants in Jammu and Kashmir. Ten were members of the LeT, six from the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and two from the Jaish-e-Mohammed.