Kashmir: Pulwama mastermind among 3 JeM ultras killed

Kashmir: Pulwama mastermind among 3 JeM ultras killed

The debris of a destroyed house after a gunfight between security forces and militants at Pinglish area of Tral in Pulwama district of South Kashmir on Monday. PTI

Three Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants, including the mastermind of February 14 Pulwama terror attack that killed over 40 CRPF personnel, were killed in an encounter with security forces in Tral area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Monday.

“One of the slain terrorists has been identified as Mudasir Khan, alias Mohammad Bhai, the JeM commander who is believed to have masterminded the Pulwama attack,” a police spokesperson said in a statement.

He said that DNA samples of the other two militants have been taken to identify them, as their bodies were charred. “From the incriminating material recovered from the site of the encounter, it is understood that the killed militant was a Pakistani national code-named Khalid,” he said.

The encounter in Pinglish area of Tral erupted during the intervening night of Sunday and Monday after a joint team of army’s 42-Rashtriya Rifles, CRPF and police launched a cordon-and-search operation following "specific inputs" about the presence of militants in the area.

Sources said that as the searches were going on, the hiding militants fired on security forces. “In retaliation, the security forces blasted off the house in which the militants were hiding. The house was completely destroyed in the operation while the militants were neutralised,” they said.

Reports said that soon after the gunfight started, youths attempted to break the cordon and tried to march towards the encounter site in a bid to help the trapped militants to escape. However, security forces used tear gas shells to disperse them.

The JeM had claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing in Pulwama on February 14 that left over 40 CRPF troopers dead in the worst ever attack since militancy began in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989.

Last Monday, two local militants of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen outfit were killed in Tral area. Though is a surge in violence since 2014, there has been a spurt in the recent months. In 2018, the death toll of militants and security forces in Kashmir touched the highest point in a decade.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs' data, between 2014 and 2018, there has been a 93% rise in the number of security personnel killed in militant incidents in Jammu and Kashmir.