Srinagar: A top commander of Lashker-e-Toiba was killed on Sunday in an “encounter” in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, police said.
While the police claim could not be verified independently, a report on ‘The Hindu’ website questioned genuineness of the gunfight which both army and police maintained was “brief.”
A police spokesman in handout here said that acting on specific information, police along with 47, 21 and 6 Rashtriya Rifles launched a joint cordon-and-search operation in Sudal area of Magam village in Handwara town of Kupwara district on Sunday morning.
“The militant fired upon the joint operation party, triggering an encounter. During the encounter a LeT militant was killed,” the spokesman said.
The police identified the slain militant as Abu Ukasha Afghani, the Divisional Commander of LeT.
In a separate statement, an army spokesman said the contact with Afghani was established at about 0400 hours, when he opened “indiscriminate fire on the troops” from animal shed. “The fire was effectively retaliated, killing Afghani.”
The spokesman also claimed recovery of a 9mm pistol along with magazine with 15 rounds and one matrix sheet from “the encounter site”.
“(GoC 15 Corps) Lieutenant General Gurmit Singh appreciated the army and the SOG personnel for the operation conducted in a thoroughly professional and surgical manner,” he said.
Afghani, he said, is seventh top militant commander killed this year so while as ten top commanders were killed last year.
Meanwhile, ‘The Hindu’ said that some of the residents who spoke to it over telephone suggested that the militant “seemed to have been killed in a fake encounter” after his arrest. “According to them, there was little evidence of an encounter at the site,” the report said.
“However, the police and the army officials insisted that Afghani died ‘in a brief encounter’ after he turned down the offers of surrender ‘with heavy volume of gunfire’ from a cowshed that was brought down with an improvised explosive device,” the report said.
Whether “heavy volume of gunfire” can be made from a pistol as claimed to have been recovered by army from the “encounter site” remains a question even as army and police claimed that Afghani had carried out a number of militant strikes on the army convoys.
The slain militant, according to the police, was also believed to be one among the six LeT militants who had beheaded a police constable in a forest in Magam area of Handwara in July last year.