Three army soldiers, including officer, injured in ongoing operation
Anantnag: The longest surviving commander of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and two of his unidentified associates were killed in an overnight gunfight here in Baramulla district of north Kashmir, police said.
Four security forces’ personnel, including an officer and a policeman, also received minor injuries during the gunfight. “They had superficial injuries and all of them are stable,” a senior police official said, adding, “They are being treated for their injuries.”
The LeT commander has been identified as Muhammad Yousuf Kantroo, a resident of Khag area in central Kashmir’s Budgam district. Kantroo, as per police records, had been associated with militancy since 2000.
“He recycled twice in the last more than two decades, and has now been active since 2017,” Inspector General of Police (IGP), Vijay Kumar said.
He said that Kantroo has been involved in many killings, including the killing of a PSO and his brother in the Budgam district recently.
Police have also accused Kantroo of being involved in the killing of a BDC Chairman, Bhupinder Singh in September 2020. “Singh was killed in Khag, also the native village of Kantroo. FIR stands registered against Kantroo in the killing,” Kumar said.
Apart from this police have listed a number of cases, in their press release, accusing Kantroo of having been involved in. “He was also involved in bringing many vulnerable youths into militant folds, including a 12th class student Faisal Hafiz, of Aripanth Magam,” the police said.
There were reports that Faisal was also trapped at the gunfight site and a video of his parents pleading outside the site of the gunfight, for him to lay down his arms, went viral over social media.
“IGP Kashmir has again reiterated his appeal to parents to militants asking them to appeal their wards to shun the path of violence,” the press release, issued by the police post the gunfight read. It however said nothing about whether Faisal was indeed present at the site of the gunfight or not.
A sound clip of a conversation, between purported army men and holed-up militants, was also run by some news channels, wherein the army men were trying to convince the militants to lay down their arms.
“Let me talk to Faisal,” the army man can be heard asking for Faisal repeatedly, even as the “militant” he was talking to, kept asking for a charged phone because his own phone was running low on battery.
Police have not commented on this in their press release. Sources in the police, however, said that the operation was still going on and three more militants are believed to be trapped.
“So far, 03 #terrorists have been killed. #Operation going on. Further details shall follow,” the police tweeted late in the evening.
The gunfight started in the wee hours of Thursday morning after a cordon and search operation was launched by government forces Wednesday night. “We had specific inputs regarding the presence of militants in the area, following which the operation was launched,” the police official said.
The hiding place of the militants was identified soon and they were asked to surrender, the official said, adding that the militants chose to fire indiscriminately.
“The fire was retaliated and one by one, all the militants were killed,” the official said. The gunfight took place in Malwah, Kreeri area of Baramulla district located on the border of Baramulla and Budgam districts.
Bodies of the slain militants have been retrieved along with arms, ammunition, and some incriminating material. “They will be buried at an undisclosed location in Baramulla district,” the official said.
Authorities have refused to hand over bodies of slain militants to their families, since April 2020, when they cited Covid protocol as a reason. They have continued with the practice and the slain militants are being buried at undisclosed locations in North Kashmir, in presence of a few family members.
Kumar, meanwhile, termed the killing of Kantroo a huge success for government forces and congratulated forces on conducting a clean operation.