SRINAGAR: Security forces on Tuesday dealt a major jolt to militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba by killing its Kashmir chief and most wanted militant Abu Dujana and his associate in an encounter in south Kashmir.
A civilian was killed and over a dozen injured after security forces fired on protestors during clashes near the encounter site after the gunfight.
“On specific intelligence information about presence of Abu Dujana and his associates, a cordon and search operation was launched in Hakripora village of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district by police, CRPF and army men at around 4.30 am today,” General Officer Commanding (GoC) of Srinagar-based 15 Corps, Lt Gen Lt Gen J S Sandhu told reporters.
He said the troops encircled the house, where militants were holed-up.
Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir, Muneer Khan said concerted efforts were made to make militants surrender.
“Through public address system, we asked them to surrender. We also used the services of the owner of the house, where the militants were hiding, to persuade the militants to surrender. However, militants rejected to surrender and heavily fired on security forces,” he said.
The IGP said the fire was returned by the security forces and in the ensuing gunfight, which lasted for over two hours, LeT’s Kashmir chief Abu Dujana, 27, and his associate Arif Ahmad Dar were killed.
Sources said after the gunfight broke out, one of the militant Arif was killed within an hour.
“However, Dujana continued to resist. In order to prevent him from escaping, security personnel set the house on fire by blowing it up with explosives to force him to come out in open,” they said.
They said even as portion of the house was on fire, he continued to engage security personnel in the gunfight and was killed in the over two hours long firefight.
Sources said after the gunfight ended, security personnel recovered two bodies from the debris. “Dujana’s body was partially charred. However, it was recognizable and could be easily recognized that the slain was Abu Dujana,” they said.
The IGP Kashmir termed Dujana’s killing as a major jolt to Lashkar and big achievement for security forces.
Sources said Dujana had married a girl from Pulwama last year and ever since his marriage, his movement was been tracked and monitored by the security forces.
“They finally managed to track him down today and killed in the gunfight,” they said.
Abu Dujana, who had taken over as LeT’s Kashmir chief in November 2015 after killing of his predecessor Abu Qasim, was carrying a bounty of Rs 15 lakhs.
After the news spread that Dujana and his associate were killed, locals, especially the youth took to roads near the encounter site and clashed with security forces. The security personnel fired bullet and pellets and resorted to tear gas shelling on the mob, causing death of a youth Firdous Ahmad and injuries to about a dozen others.
Police handed over body of the local militant Arif to the locals for burial but did not hand over body of Abu Dujana to them.
A police officer said he was categorized as A++ militant and was wanted militant. “He had been active for about seven years and was among the longest surviving foreign militants in Kashmir”.
“Dujana had infiltrated into the Valley in 2010 and had been active since then. He served as deputy of Abu Qasim before taking over as LeT’s Kashmir chief after his killing. He was involved in planning of almost all the major militant attacks in Valley including the attack on CRPF convoy at Pampore area in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district last year in which eight CRPF men were killed and about a dozen injured and the attack on BSF convoy at Udhampur in which two border guards and a militant were killed and 10 others injured,” he said.
He said Dujana was also instrumental in recruiting the local youth into LeT.
According to him, Dujana, a resident of Gilgit-Baltistan, had escaped from about a dozen security forces operations in the past, the recent one being on July 19.
Abu Dujana’s killing is major success for security forces after killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commanders Burhan Wani and Sabzar Bhat.
Sources said Abu Ismail, whom security agencies say was the mastermind of July 10 attack on Amarnath yatris, is likely to take over as LeT’s Kashmir chief.
IGP Kashmir described Dujana’s killing as "good riddance to a nuisance" and said operations against all militants will continue.
“Stone pelting or no pelting, disruptions or no disruptions, our operations will continue,” he said adding, “Every militant active in the Kashmir is our next target”.
After Dujana’s killing, clashes broke out between youth and security personnel at many places in Srinagar, south Kashmir and North Kashmir. The police and paramilitary fired pellets and tear smoke shells to disperse the protestors, who pelted stones on them. Over a dozen persons were injured in the clashes.
As tension gripped Valley, authorities suspended mobile internet services and closed all educational institutions.
The separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, have called for Valley-wide shutdown tomorrow to protest militant and civilian killings.
In view of the shutdown call, authorities have ordered closure of all educational institutions in the Valley tomorrow, an official said.
He said restrictions may be imposed in parts of Valley tomorrow to maintain law and order and foil protests.