J&K police pick up Pakistani militant in dramatic raid in Srinagar

The Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir police has arrested one of the Pakistani militants connected to Wednesday’s fidayeen attack on a CRPF unit in Srinagar.

Senior Superintendent of Police Syed Ashiq Bukhari confirmed the arrest in the Rampura Chattabal locality of the city late Thursday night, but did not share further details.

However, another police source told The Hindu that on specific information, the militant in his late 20s, codenamed Abu Talha, was arrested with a loaded pistol during a dramatic raid. The Army and the CRPF provided cover to the SOG unit.

Police say two pocket diaries; a SIM card of an Indian telecommunication company issued in Uri, an ointment tube made in Pakistan; an under-surveillance guerilla activity controlled by a Kashmiri militant for several weeks at Palhalan village of Baramulla; the Hizbul Mujahideen’s first-ever claim of owning up a suicide attack; the Lashkar-e-Taiba spokesman’s “meaningful quiet”; no local claim on the two bodies (of the militants); besides some telephonic intercepts and call detail records pieced together by the investigators make the fidayeen attack “a clear case of foreign terror.”

“We have noticed the signature of the Lashkar-e-Taiba in this operation,” a senior official associated with the investigation told The Hindu. He refused to disclose details but was confident that a breakthrough was not far away. “An operation jointly planned and executed by the Kashmiri and Pakistani cadres of the LeT in coordination with the United Jihad Council,” he said when pressed to identify the actors.

“There were some gaps and missing links, but the militants were not completely off the radar. They had been under surveillance since we learned about their planning fidayeen attacks on the Taj and the Grand [two major hotels] last year,” another official source claimed. The militants had “some inkling” of being under the surveillance of the police and other government agencies. Hence, they changed their hideouts, vehicles and means of communication. Palhalan village was the nuclear point for the planning and execution; a local militant, associated with a separatist political conglomerate, operated as the “kingpin.”

The Police Public School on the National Highway bypass at Bemina here was selected for the broad daylight fidayeen attack as it had emerged as a centre of routine sports activity involving the CRPF and local youth. The militants had chosen a day of shutdown when the school would remain closed. They initially lobbed grenades, providing civilians a chance to escape. Apparently to dodge detection, the duo did not carry any communication equipment, not even a cellphone.

Two particular fidayeen groups of 16 militants, according to the sources, had been launched through Lolab and Keran last year. One of the group members, Muzamil Amin, who died in an encounter in September last year, owned up two high-profile suicide operations in Srinagar. Five Pakistani militants of the group, as also a local militant, died in a major encounter at Sadpora in the Sopore area on December 18.

Five more got killed in yet another major operation in the Chhatergul area of Kangan and one more in an encounter in south Kashmir. “Of the remaining four militants, one each is still active in Sopore and Pulwama and two died in the fidayeen action on Wednesday,” said a source. He, however, did not count the “kingpin” from Palhalan among the hard taskmasters, though the same group is known to have gunned down a former militant, Bashir Ahmad Ganai of the Pattan area, near Kunzar (Tangmarg), on March 8.