Srinagar: A militant who had fought in Afghanistan, was killed on Wednesday with two of his associates in a gunfight with government forces in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, barely a day after two militants were slain in a similar encouter in Tral.
Acting on inputs over the presence of militants, special operations group (SOG) of police, army’s 55 RR and personnel of CRPF183 BN laid a siege around Astan Mohalla village of the district in the wee hours today and started a search operation, reports said. When the search operation was in progress, a group of militants hiding in a residential house opened a volley of gunfire to stop state forces from advancing and to escape their dragnet.
However, the government forces encircled the holed up militants and engaged them in a firefight. The militants, reports said came out of the house took shelter in a cowshed and continued assaults on the state forces.
In the exchange of gunfire that continued for several hours, three Jaish militant, including the outfit’s top commander Abdul Rehman alias Fauji Bhai were killed while a soldier sustained injuries. Locals told Kashmir Observer that a cow was also killed in exchange of fire between the militants and the government forces. The house too suffered partial damages in the encounter, they said.
“The killing of Abdul Rehman alias Fauji Bhai alias Fauji Baba, a Pakistani national, is a big success for forces as he was a master in assembling improvised explosive devices for JeM,” Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar told reporters here.
Kumar said the slain Jaish militant was active in south Kashmir since 2017 and had taken part in armed action against the allied forces in violence-ridden Afghanistan in the past.
The IGP claimed that Fauji Baba had managed to escape when state forces intercepted the IED laden car in Pulwama on May 28.
“We had promised you that day we will get him soon. Today we did. Whether he was involved in 2019 car bombing attack on CRPF convoy, I cannot say for sure but he was active in Pulwama at that time,” he said in response to a question.
Asked if Fauji Baba was the nephew of Jaish chief Masood Azhar, Kumar said, “There is no confirmation of that. You are only running it (on TV channels).”
He said there were at least two more IED experts among the Jaish ranks in Kashmir, Walid Bhai and Lambu Bhai, and the security forces were working to get them too.
“We have had major successes this year as we have eliminated top commanders of Hizbul Mujahideen Reyaz Naikoo and poster boy Junaid Sehrai, Lashkar chief Haider in Handwara and now Fauji Baba,” he added.
Security officials said that the real name of Fauji Bhai was Ikram and he was a close confidant of top JeM commander Abdul Rouf Asghar, wanted in connection with the IC-814 hijacking case of an Indian Airlines plane in 1999.
Asghar is younger brother of JeM supreme commander Maulana Masood Azhar, who was released in exchange by the then BJP-led government on December 31, 1999.
“Fauji Bhai had infiltrated along with specially trained JeM militants to revive the outfit and initiate spectacular attacks on security apparatus.”
The group moved to South Kashmir and set up their bases in Tral, Rajpora and Khrew areas of Pulwama and intermingled with local JeM militants. The specialized attacks included massive IED attacks and M4 sniper shots.
His movement was often reported from Chewa Kalan and Rajpora areas of Pulwama along Rumshi Naala and Chadoora area of Budgam and his pictures freely circulated. He was known to wield an AK rifle fitted with a UBGL and carried a satellite phone for communication.
Kumar said efforts were on to identify the other two slain ultras. The “potential parents” of these militants have been called in for identification.
“If they are identified, their family will be allowed to participate in the funeral at Baramulla. We are in the process of conducting the autopsy and collecting DNA samples in case they are not identified,” he added.
On Tuesday, two local militants of Jaish were killed in a gun-battle with government forces in Saimoh village of Tral. The locals had identified them as Maqbool Chopan and Aqib Ramzan. While Chopan was said to have joined militant ranks in April this year, Ramzan was reportedly active for a year.
Meanwhile, clashes broke out between protesters and government forces after the encounter concluded. The government forces burst tear smoke shells and fired pellets to disperse scores of protesters who were seeking custody of the slain militants, witnesses told Kashmir Observer.
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