Masood's nephew among three militants killed in J&K

Srinagar/New Delhi: Security forces in Kashmir achieved major success by killing one of the most wanted militant commanders, Talha Rasheed, nephew of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) chief Moulana Masood Azhar.

Talha was among the three militants killed in an encounter with security forces in south Kashmir's Pulwama district on Monday night.

Also, for the first time in the 28-years of the insurgency, security forces recovered a US made M4 Carbine weapon from the slain militants.

A soldier of the army's 44 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) was killed and two others injured.

Addressing a press conference here, IGP (Kashmir) Munir Khan said they will ask Pakistan to collect the body of Azhar's nephew.

"Jaish-e-Muhammad has owned Talha Rasheed. We will ask them (Pakistan) to collect the body because they owned it," he said and added the matter will be taken up through proper channels.

Earlier, a local news gathering agency, GNS, quoting a statement from Jaish, said that Rasheed and two other militants, including Divisional Commander Muhammad Bhai and Waseem Bhai of Drubgam Pulwama, were killed in the firefight in Aglar Kandi village.

"Hassan Shah, the JeM spokesman, identified Masood Azhar's nephew as commander Talha Rasheed," said the report.

Victor Force Maj Gen Raju said the M4 weapon is used by NATO forces as well as by the special forces of the Pakistan army.

"We have reason to believe that the particular weapon was given to JeM cadres by the Pakistan army, clearly showing the complicity between the Pakistani forces and the Jaish-e-Mohammed," he said.

The recovery of M4 carbine is yet another evidence of Pakistan's support to terror activities, army chief Gen Bipin Rawat said.

More attacks

Talha was planning to carry out more fidayeen (suicide) attacks in Kashmir in the coming weeks, a source said.

"The JeM group, led by Rasheed, was responsible for fidayeen attack on district police lines (DPL) Pulwama on August 26 in which eight security personnel were killed. Later the same group coordinated a similar attack on a BSF camp near Srinagar airport on October 3," the source told DH.

"Both Rasheed and his Pakistani associate Mehmood were active in Kashmir for a long time and their survival would have meant more fidayeen attacks on security forces and especially at a time when the Centre's special representative Dineshwar Sharma was in Kashmir to hold talks with different groups," the source further said.

A senior police officer said being Azhar's nephew was an advantage for Rasheed as he had been given a free hand by his handlers across the border to work closely with Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Talha, believed to be between 27 and 30 years of age, was active in Kashmir following the attack on the Pathankot Air Force Station in January 2016, for which Azhar was placed under house arrest by Pakistan authorities.

Security officials said Talha had infiltrated into the Valley along with another Pakistani militant Mehmood after the July 2016 unrest in Kashmir, which was triggered by the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani.

DH News Service

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