| A policeman checks the body of Manzoor Dar after he was shot in New Delhi. (AFP)
New Delhi, March 12 (Agencies): A suspected Jaish-e-Mohammad militant was killed in a pre-dawn gun battle with security forces in Noida today as police claimed to have foiled a plan to carry out a strike in Delhi or Mumbai, similar to the December 2001 Parliament attack.
The militant — identified as Manzoor Dar alias Sirajuddin Khan, Jaish area commander in Baramullah — was riding a motorcycle with an unidentified accomplice and the gun fight started when the duo was challenged by security forces. Signalled to stop, they first tried to escape and then opened fire.
Dar, hailing from Sakkar in Pakistan’s Sindh province, was killed around 2.30 am, special task force senior superintendent of police Rajiv Ranjan Verma said. But his accomplice escaped.
The militants fired at least 37 rounds at the joint team of the special task force of Uttar Pradesh and Noida police that intercepted them, added Verma, who headed the operation.
The police had been tipped off that the militants would be travelling to a specific spot to meet a contact, he said.
Dar was carrying an AK-47 rifle, two magazines, grenades and ammunition.
The encounter comes barely two days after Jaish militants Ejaz Hussain and Mehraj were arrested in Muzaffarnagar.
Dar, along with Ejaz and Mehraj, had come to Delhi in September last year and carried out a recce of Parliament House, India Gate and some other crowded places, Verma said.
Later, he travelled to Mumbai where he conducted a survey of the Bombay Stock Exchange and other public places with an intention of carrying out an attack, he added.
Security officials have for months been on alert in New Delhi against possible militant attacks.
Last month, troops barred public access to India Gate after intelligence reports hinted that it might be a target.
It was reopened to the public recently, about two weeks after the February 21 closure.
A hunt has been launched for at least three associates of Dar, including the one who escaped today. Teams have been sent to Muzaffarnagar for the purpose.
The militants are believed to have been sent by Jaish commander-in-chief in India, Ghazi Baba.
Gunmen had attacked Parliament on December 13, 2001. Fifteen people, including the five attackers, were killed in the raid that India blamed on the Jaish-e-Mohammad and another Pakistan-based militant group.
The attack nearly led to war between the nuclear neighbours.