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Key Pulwama planner killed in gunfight: Army

One of the main plotters of the February 14 terror attack on a paramilitary convoy in South Kashmir’s Pulwama was killed in a security operation late on Sunday night, officials announced on Monday.

india Updated: Mar 11, 2019 22:28 IST
Mir Ehsan
Mir Ehsan
FILE PHOTO: Indian soldiers stand guard near the site of Thursday's suicide bomb attack in Lethpora in south Kashmir's Pulwama district February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Ismail/File Photo(REUTERS)

One of the main plotters of the February 14 terror attack on a paramilitary convoy in South Kashmir’s Pulwama was killed in a security operation late on Sunday night, officials announced on Monday, saying forces had wiped out at least 14 members of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) over the last three weeks.

The army crackdown on the terror group follows an air force operation on February 26 in which Indian combat aircraft bombed a site in Balakot, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region, known to be a militant training centre.

The strikes triggered a sharp escalation in tensions with Pakistan – which attempted an air operation in retaliation – and brought back into focus Islamabad’s inaction in curbing terrorist groups operating on its soil.

Sunday night’s operation led to the deaths of Mudasir Ahmed Khan, who is believed to have headed the JeM unit active in Pulwama, and another militant identified as Khalid.

“In last 21 days we have been getting after the Jaish. We have eliminated 18 terrorists so far, of them 14 being from Jaish. Six of them were main commanders,” said Lt Gen Kanwal Jeet Singh Dhillon, identifying Khan as the second “main conspirator” in the attack on the Central Reserve Police Force convoy last month in which 40 troopers had died.

The other main conspirator was identified as Kamran, who was eliminated on February 18th, Dhillon added. Dhillon was flanked by Inspector General of Police Kashmir, SP Pani and IG CRPF, Zulfiquar Hassan.

On Monday, three weapons were recovered from the spot in Pinglish village where the encounter took place and search operations were underway.

In the three weeks since the attack, 18 terrorists have been killed, the army officer said on Monday. “Eight are Pakistanis while the rest were locals, including one each from Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen,” added Lt Gen Dhillon, the corps commander.

He said security forces had been focussing on eliminating the Jaish leadership since the convoy bombing.

“We have been very successful in doing such in three weeks time. The operations against the foreign terrorists and Jaish will continue till we eliminate them,” he said, adding that the main focus was to ensure the Jaish did not carry out more Pulwama-style attacks. “We lay focus on Jaish but other militant outfits are also right on our radar.”

IG Kashmir Pani said Khan was wanted for several terror crimes. “He was active for one year and was basically trying to recruit youngsters,” he said.

Khan, 22, was an electrician with a graduate degree and police said that he had arranged the vehicle used for the attack last month. The police has identified the youth who purchased the Maruti Eeco used in the attack as Sajjad, who joined Jaish after National Investigation Agency pieced together the origin of the car and his links to it.

Jaish operative Adil Ahmad Dar allegedly detonated his car bomb alongside a bus carrying 40 CRPF troopers on a busy highway last month, reducing both vehicles to a heap of twisted metal. The attack, the deadliest strike on security personnel in Kashmir, triggered calls for retaliation against Pakistan, where Jaish founder Masood Azhar is known to be living.

South Kashmir’s Pulwama district is considered one of the hotbeds for the insurgency.

Soon after the Pulwama attack and Kamran’s killing on February 18, the corps commander had said that the outfit’s leadership in the Valley had been “wiped out”. “I am happy to inform the country that in less than 100 hours (from Thursday’s attack), we eliminated the JeM leadership, mostly Pakistanis, in the Valley which was being handled by JeM from Pakistan,” Dhillon had said.

First Published: Mar 11, 2019 22:28 IST