He earned the sobriquet ‘Altaf Laptop’ within the police for his unmatched success in online surveillance of militant activities since 2006.
On Wednesday, sub-inspector Altaf Ahmad fell to bullets, while chasing Kashmir’s most-wanted Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operational commander Abu Qasim.
Heading the Srinagar-based Special Investigation Team (SIT) for counter-insurgency, with 40 members reporting to him, Mr. Ahmad had been tracking Qasim — a foreign militant with a Rs. 20 lakh reward on his head — for long.
Sources said Mr. Ahmad was killed when he and his men were going after the militant commander in a private vehicle, following a tip-off from a source.
“We suspect it was a source trap,” said a top counter-insurgency official.
Mr. Ahmad had decided to carry out the operation on his own without laying any cordon, which counter-insurgency officials said “was a very casual approach.”
The source was right about the location of Qasim, who was “already alert.” Mr. Ahmad gave chase to Qasim’s car near Gund Dachin area of Bandipora, 40 km from Srinagar. Sources said Qasim and other militants stopped Mr. Ahmad’s vehicle and opened fire.
Mr. Ahmad, who was injured, was immediately rushed to the Army’s 92 Base Hospital, Srinagar, where he died.
Elusive Qasim is behind several high-profile militant attacks in the Valley since 2012, including the Hyderpora attack in 2013 that left eight Army personnel dead, attack on the Silver Star hotel in October 2012 and the attack on the BSF in Pampore in 2013.
Operating for the past five years in south Kashmir, Qasim, whose name figured in the Udhampur attack this year that left two BSF men dead, had apparently shifted his base to north Kashmir’s Bandipora district recently.‘A big loss’
“The police officer was an asset to the department. He had done a tremendous job on the anti-terrorism front. It is really a big loss for us,” said Inspector General Police, Kashmir Range, Syed Javaid Mujtaba Geelani.
“It has broken the backbone of the counter-insurgency cell of the police,” admitted another top cop to The Hindu .
According to the police, he was the brain behind 33 per cent of the operations against militants. It was because of him many top Hizbul Mujahideen commanders, including Qazi Misbauddin, Hanief Khan and Muzaffar Dar, were killed.
In 2012, Mr. Ahmad is believed to have played a key role in identifying constable Abdul Rashid Shigan’s militant activities, which included 13 attacks across Srinagar, by tapping phones.