SRINAGAR The owner of the vehicle used in the February 14 car bomb blast at Lethpora, Sajjad Ahmad Bhat, was among two Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) affiliates killed in an encounter with government forces at Marhama area of Bijbehara in south Kashmirs Anantnag district on Tuesday. An army soldier was also killed in the encounter.
Sajjad had joined Jash-e-Mohammad after his name surfaced in the attack and took name Afzal Guru, the Sopore resident who was hanged to satisfy collective conscience of India for his alleged involvement in 2001 Parliament attack.
A Maruti Eeco, a multi-purpose vehicle, was used in the Lethpora blast and according to NIA the car exchanged hands seven times before it reached Sajjad, a resident of Anantnags Bijbehara, on February 4, 10 days before the blast.
A police spokesman said that the cordon was launched following credible inputs.
He said as the search operation was going on, the hiding militants fired on the search party. The fire was retaliated leading to an encounter, he said.
In the exchange of fire with the militants, one Army soldier Anil Jaswal sustained gunshot injuries. He was evacuated to the hospital where he succumbed, said the spokesman.
In the ensuing encounter, 02 militants were killed and the bodies were retrieved from the site of encounter. The killed militants have been identified as Sajad Ahmad Bhat and Tawseef Ahmad Bhat both residents of Marhama, Bijbehara.
According to official sources three army men also suffered injuries during the course of gunfight and have been hospitalized.
As per the records available with the police, both the killed militants were affiliated with proscribed outfit JeM and were wanted by law for their complicity in a series of crimes including attacks on security establishments and civilian atrocities, he said.
According to the police records, Sajad was wanted in Lethpora blast in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed earlier this year.
As per the material evidence collected during the course of the investigation it was learnt that Maruti Eco vehicle used for carrying out the blast in Lethpora was owned by one Sajad Bhat of Marhama. As the news of Sajads involvement spread, he escaped and joined proscribed outfit JeM, said the spokesman.
A picture of Sajad carrying AK-47 rifle was also circulated on social media announcing his joining the outfit. Pertinently Tawseef played a key role in recruiting of Sajad to the militant ranks, he added.
Both of them were part of groups involved in planning and executing series of attacks in the area. Several crime cases were registered against them. Some of the crime cases registered against Sajad include case FIR No 16/2018 and case FIR No 28/2019 pertaining to Lethpora attack. Cases registered against Tawseef include case FIR No 95/2018.
Meanwhile, after conducting all legal formalities the slain militants were handed over to their respective families for last rites, said a police officer. Reports and eyewitnesses said that thousands of people attended their funeral at Marhama.