Security forces on Tuesday gunned down a militant whose car was used in the February 14 Pulwama terror attack, but the army lost three more jawans to insurgency elsewhere in Kashmir, capping the deadliest week for uniformed personnel in the Valley in months.
An army major, a police inspector and two CRPF officers are among 10 security force personnel who have lost their lives in a spate of militancy-related incidents in Kashmir this week.
The defence spokesperson in Srinagar, Colonel Rajesh Kalia, said two militants of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, the group that claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack, were killed in a gunfight at Marhama village in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district. One of them was Sajad Ahmad Bhat, whose car had been packed with explosives and driven by the suicide bomber into a CRPF convoy at Pulwama, killing 40 personnel.
The Pulwama attack had brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war and was followed by cross-border air strikes by both countries.
Police sources said Sajad had been on the radar of the NIA after the Pulwama probe revealed that he was involved in the attack. But by the time the agency had raided his home in Anantnag, he had joined militant ranks.
The army said the other militant killed in Tuesday’s gunfight was Tauseef, Sajad’s handler and a local recruit.
Over the past few months, the forces have killed several Jaish commanders who were the alleged masterminds of the Pulwama strike.
Police said a search operation was launched in Marhama village following credible information about two militants holed up in a house. The militants fired at the search party, sparking the gunfight.
An army rifleman, Anil Jaswal, 26, from Himachal Pradesh, suffered bullet injuries in the encounter and later succumbed to his wounds. The two militants, Sajad and Tauseef, were killed in the hours-long gunfight.
“Sajad was wanted in the Lethpora (Pulwama) blast in which 40 CRPF personnel were martyred earlier this year. As per the material evidence collected during the course of the investigation, it was learnt that the Maruti Eco vehicle used for carrying out the blast in Lethpora was owned by one Sajad Bhat of Marhama,” spokesperson Kalia said.
“As the news of Sajad’s involvement spread, he escaped and joined the proscribed terror outfit JeM. A picture of Sajad carrying an AK-47 rifle had been circulated on social media, announcing his joining the terror outfit. Pertinently, Tauseef had played a key role in recruiting Sajad,” Kalia added.
The spokesperson said two soldiers who had suffered injuries in Monday’s IED attack at Arihal village in Pulwama succumbed to their wounds on Tuesday. The army had said that some soldiers had suffered minor injuries in the blast. “Two soldiers, brought to the 92 Base Hospital with severe contusions/concussions, have succumbed to their injuries,” Kalia said.
Army sources said around half a dozen soldiers were injured in the IED explosion, which caused extensive damage to the vehicle in which they were travelling.
The army identified the two slain soldiers as Havildar Amarjeet Kumar, 35, a resident of Bihar, and Naik Ajit Kumar Sahoo, 27, of Odisha.
A gunfight at Bidiora village in Anantnag killed a major, Ketan Sharma, and injured two soldiers on Monday. Five CRPF men and a police inspector died on June 12 in a suicide attack in Anantnag.