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SRINAGAR: Security forces achieved a major breakthrough in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday by killing two militants including Lashkar-e-Toiba’s operational chief Abu Ismail, who was the mastermind of the July 10 attack on Amarnath yatris in which eight pilgrims were killed and over two dozen injured.
Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir, Muneer Khan in a hurriedly convened press conference told reporters that LeT operational chief and wanted militant Abu Ismail and his associate Abu Qasim were killed in a swift and brief encounter in Arigam area of Nowgam in outskirts of Srinagar this afternoon.
He said police, army and CRPF had received specific information about movement of Abu Ismail. Accordingly, a naka was laid at Arigam area in Nowgam. The police, CRPF and army men had laid an ambush in the area and intercepted the two in an open field at around 4.15 pm
“The militants tried to escape by firing on the security forces. The fire was returned by the troops and in the brief gunfight, Abu Ismail and his associate Abu Qasim alias Chota Qasim were killed,” IGP said.
Both were Pakistani nationals and two AK 47s and UBGLs were recovered from the encounter site.
After killing of LeT militants, mobile internet service in Srinagar was suspended for some hours. However, the services were restored later in the evening.
IGP termed Abu Ismail’s killing was a major achievement of security forces and severe jolt to Lashkar.
He said Ismail was the mastermind of July 10 attack on Amarnath yatris in Botengoo area of south Kashmir’s Anantnag district in which eight pilgrims were killed and two dozen others injured.
“The special thing about this operation is that it was based on wishes of people. After the attack on yatris, every section of people had condemned it and demanded that perpetrators should be brought to justice and today they were brought to justice by security forces,” Khan said.
After the attack on yatris, police had formed a SIT headed by a top police officer to probe the attack and track down the militants involved in the attack.
After his name figured as mastermind of the attack, Ismail was on run but under radar of the security forces, another police official said.
He said the operation to track Abu Ismail needed a lot of meticulous intelligence, patience and planning. “He remained under radar and finally after two months of hardwork, we managed to kill him today”.
Abu Ismail was A++ category militant while his associate Abu Qasim was A + militant.
IGP said now a foreign militant and a local militant of LeT are wanted in Amarnath yatra attack case.
“We will hunt them also,” he said.
He said the security agencies are going after the militant leadership to create leadership vacuum among the militants.
“We are going after the militant leadership as eliminating the leadership is important. Priority is to eliminate militant leadership because they lure the youth to militancy,” the IGP said.
Ismail had taken over as Lashkar’s Kashmir chief after killing of Abu Dujana in August this year.
GoC Victor Force, B S Raju, said it was an extremely important operation.
He said Ismail was directly involved in killing of 14 security personnel and 8 civilians and injuring other people.
“We are after foreign militant leadership of LeT. We killed Abu Qasim, Abu Dujana and now Abu Ismail. Now LeT has serious deficiency in leadership and it would give us opportunity to go after them with more vigour and kill the militants so that people and normalcy is restored,” he said.
The Army official said synergy between all three agencies including police, CRPF and army would continue and they would continued to launch joint operations against militants.
IG CRPF Srinagar Randeep Singh Sahi said the operation was well coordinated and based on specific input.
He said besides being mastermind of Amarnath yatra attack, Ismail was involved in many militant attacks on security forces.
“The excellent coordination on ground between the security agencies has resulted in positive results and led to killing of top militants,” he said.