SRINAGAR: Three militants including nephew of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar were killed in an encounter with security forces in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district and a US-made M4 carbine was recovered from their possession.
It was for the first time in 28-year-long militancy in the State that a US-made weapon was recovered from the militants.
“Three JeM militants and an army man were killed in over three hours long gunfight Aglar Kandi area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district last evening,” IGP Kashmir Muneer Khan told reporters here while addressing a joint press conference with GoC of army’s Victor Force Major General B S Raju and IG CRPF Zulfiqar Hassan.
He identified the slain militants as Talha Rashid, a Pakistani national and nephew of Jaish chief Maulana Masood Azhar; JeM’s divisional commander for south Kashmir Mehmood Bhai, a Pakistani national and a local Waseem Ganaie, who had joined militancy on August 19 this year.
The slain army man was identified as 30-year-old sepoy Vrahma Pal Singh R/o Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh.
Talha and Mehmood were A++ category militants.
IGP Khan said he was thankful to JeM for owning the Pakistani militants including Talha and saying that he was nephew of Masood Azhar, who was released along with two other militants in exchange for passengers Indian Airlines plane hijacked by militants on December 31, 1999.
“It is for the first time that militant group has owned the Pakistani militant killed in an encounter in the State,” he said.
Khan said they would take up the matter with the Pakistan embassy through proper channel and request them very firmly to claim the body.
“We will make a request and it is for them to decide whether to claim the body or not,” he said.
IGP said the highlight of the operation was the recovery of US-made M4 carbine rifle.
It was for the first time that a US-made weapon was recovered during the 28-year-long militancy in the State.
While giving details of the seized US-made weapon, Major General B S Raju said M4 carbine is a
US-made weapon and being used by lot of armies in NATO. “It is also being used by special forces of Pakistan army.”
“We have reason to believe that this weapon was given by Pakistan army to Jaish militants. This clearly shows the complicity between Jaish and Pakistan and its nefarious designs in Kashmir,” he said.
Raju said M4 is advanced version of old M-16 rifle, which the US army used in Vietnam war.
“It is shorter in length, lighter and also little more effective than M-16,” he said.
Asked whether US-made weapon was going to change dynamics in Kashmir, he said, “The presence of M4 rifle was not going to change the dynamics of militancy. It doesn’t substantially increase or make this weapon any more effective than the weapons already available in Kashmir”.
Maintaining that there are some challenges in handling this carbine weapon, he said, “It has very fine tolerances, so it needs more maintenance and different part of ammunition.”
“The Ak-47 rifle, which we are using as a mainstay weapon, is very rugged and dangerously effective.
When asked whether AK 47 gun is still relevant in Kashmir’s militancy, Raju said it remains the mainstay weapon.
“It has got inbuilt characteristics of being flexible and very adaptive and remains mainstay weapon of armies across the world,” he added.
Raju said they believe that 5-10 M4 carbine rifles have been brought to Kashmir by militants, who infiltrated recently,” he said.
The picture of a militant with the US-made weapon had gone viral on social media last week.
The IGP Kashmir said investigation would be launched to know how the weapon came into the hands of JeM militants.
“The matter would be taken up through different channels with concerned embassies. It is subject matter for thorough investigation,” he said.
On militant releasing picture of M4 rifle on social media, Khan said, “The militants are playing a psychological war that they have got such a weapon in their armoury”.
He said about 16-20 JeM militants were presently active in the Valley.
Meanwhile, large number of people attended the funeral prayers of slain militant Waseem Ganaie at his native village at Drobgam in Pulwama district.
At least three militants attended his funeral prayers and fired some rounds in air.
JeM to retaliate
The Home Ministry sources said Talha along with 15 other Pakistani terrorists had entered Jammu and Kashmir in August and were suspected to have come with a view to boost recruitment in the Valley amid the depleting strength of Hizbul Mujahideen and might also have been in the lookout for carrying out some spectacular action against the security forces.
Inputs with the Centre suggest the JeM has decided to retaliate the killing of Rasheed following which the security forces in the State have been put on alert to thwart any such action from the Pakistani terror group.