Sept. 17: The security establishment has added another trophy to its growing list of successes against the Jaish-e-Mohammad but the latest claim fanned whispers of foul play.
Jammu and Kashmir director-general of police Gopal Sharma said the second-in-command of the Jaish, Nasir Mehmood Ahwan alias Ansar, was gunned down in Srinagar last night. Sharma told a media conference that Ansar was killed in a gunbattle in Dana Mazar, 4 km from the heart of Srinagar.
The hit — coming a fortnight after the deaths of the Jaish chief in the Valley, Gazi Baba, and his deputy, Rashid Bhai, in a BSF raid — is being viewed as a morale-booster for counter-insurgency operations, which suffered a setback when “reformed” militant Kuka Parray was killed last week.
However, even as the police chief was preparing to announce the death of Ansar, sources who declined to be named claimed that Ansar was arrested on August 28 — two days before Gazi Baba was killed.
They said Ansar was detained at Qamarwari, around 5 km from what the police identified as last night’s encounter spot, while he was riding a bicycle.
If the arrest claim is established, it will punch a hole in the state police account and raises the spectre of a fake encounter — charges of which have hounded the security forces and often undermined their credibility in the fight against terrorism.
Sharma was asked about this at the news conference but he insisted that Ansar was not arrested earlier.
Hours later, the Jaish sought to reap the benefit of the seeds of doubt. A Jaish spokesman, Wali Hassan Baba, called Reuters in Muzaffarabad in occupied Kashmir and confirmed Ansar’s death but denied he was a top-ranking leader.
The spokesperson said Ansar was killed in the custody of security forces and not in a gunbattle.
Sharma said a team of the state police and the Border Security Force killed Ansar in the encounter.
“Ansar was the number two in the Jaish hierarchy after the new chief commander of the outfit, Sehrai Baba, following the killing of Gazi Baba and Rashid Bhai. He was involved in about 20 killings of security forces and police personnel,” he added.
The police chief said “sustained questioning” of two suspects had also led the force to 12 Jaish hideouts. “The killing of Ansar, busting of a dozen of the outfit hideouts and arrest of 11 workers have given a big blow to the Jaish.”
Security forces had yesterday gunned down three Lashkar-e-Toiba militants, including Abu Umar, thought to be the brain behind the Akshardham temple attack and massacre of 24 people in Nadimarg in the Valley.