Srinagar: Top Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Sajjad Haider and another local militant Inayatullah Mir were killed in an encounter Monday after an attack on security forces in Kreeri area of Baramulla district, Jammu and Kashmir.
A third militant, identified as Usman from Pakistan, was earlier believed to have been killed in the operation as well, but has continued to engage the security forces for more than 24 hours, resulting in the death of an Army soldier.
Two Central Reserve Police Force personnel and a J&K Police special officer were also killed in the militants’ Monday morning attack. Soon after launching the attack around 10 am, the militants disappeared into an apple orchard. The security forces gave chase, leading to multiple gunfights in which two militants were eventually killed.
The police claimed LeT commander Haider was the architect of the killing of BJP leader Wasim Bari and his family members in Bandipora last month. J&K DGP Dilbag Singh said in a press conference in Srinagar that the Sopore native was the top militant commander of north Kashmir, and among J&K’s 10 most-wanted insurgents.
The DGP equated Haider with slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, and said the LeT commander was involved in a series of attacks on security forces since 2016. Haider, the DGP said, was the LeT’s chief recruiter in north Kashmir, and was also behind several killings of village panches and sarpanches.
“Haider was a militant of 2016 vintage. He was of the same stature as Burhan Wani in his area. We have managed to arrest at least 20 of his (Haider’s) people so far. He was the main architect and brain behind the killing of Wasim Bari, his brother and father. Besides this, he was also responsible for the killing of a CRPF trooper in Sopore on 1 July,” said Singh.
How the encounter went down
Officials who narrated the incident to ThePrint said the attack began as soon as the 119 battalion the CRPF, accompanied by J&K Police personnel, halted their vehicles in Kreeri area where a ‘naka’ (checkpost) was supposed to be set up, as it usually is every morning.
When the security personnel stepped out of their vehicles, the militants sprang from the nearby orchard towards the main road, fired multiple bullets resulting in injuries to CRPF’s Khurshid Khan (41) and Lavkush Sudarshan Sharma (27), both hailing from Bihar. J&K SPO Muzaffar Ahmed was also injured; later, all three succumbed to their injuries.
A CRPF head constable managed to fire back at the militants, who were attempting to disappear into the thick orchard. One of the militants was injured at this time, DGP Singh said, and left behind his blood-soaked pheran (traditional Kashmiri attire) and ran deeper into the orchard. The three militants had split up and were headed in different directions.
“We used our dog squad to trace the militants, especially the one who was injured. But as we approached the injured gunman, another militant, who had taken position in a tree, fired when the troops were walking under the tree,” said Singh, adding that another CRPF trooper was injured in this round of firing.
According to officials, the troops then fired into the tree, killing the militant, who turned out to be Haider. The injured militant, Inayatullah, was also traced sometime later, and another gunfight ensued, resulting in his killing.
The third militant, Usman from Pakistan, had taken position deep in the orchard, but could not be brought down for more than 24 hours after the attack began.
(An earlier version of this report stated that Pakistani militant Usman had been killed, according to information provided by DGP Dilbag Singh. However, it has since emerged that the militant is still engaging security forces in the orchard.)
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