Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) ‘commander’ Yousuf Kantroo, believed to be the mastermind of several targeted killings in the Valley, and his associate were killed and two others remain holed up at an encounter site in north Kashmir’s Baramulla on Thursday.
A third militant has been killed in the ongoing operation in Baramulla, the police said.
Four security personnel were injured during the anti-militancy operation.
Kantroo, from central Kashmir, has been active since 2005. “His killing is a big success for the security forces. He was the longest surviving terrorist active in the Valley and behind several targeted killings,” Inspector General of Police (IGP) Vijay Kumar said.
Kantroo and his five associates were trapped in a residential area of Malwah, Baramulla, in a pre-dawn anti-militancy operation. “The hiding terrorists fired indiscriminately upon the search party, in which four soldiers, including an officer, received minor injuries,” the police said. The condition of the injured soldiers is stated to be “stable”.
Till late Thursday evening, only two bodies were recovered at the encounter site, which witnessed an exchange of fire the whole day. “The operation is on in the area,” Mr. Kumar said. At least three militants are believed to be still holed up at the encounter site.
Kantroo had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen first and was arrested in 2005. Released in 2008, he “again joined the Hizb in 2017”. The police said he later switched from Hizb to the LeT outfit.
According to the police records, Kantroo was behind several targeted killings of security personnel, elected representatives and civilians.
He was behind the killing of Special Police Officer (PSO) and his brother at Chatabugh, Budgam, in March this year; killed a Block Development Council chairman in September 2020 in Khag; killed a National Conference block president at Natipora Chanapora, Srinagar, and also killed a sarpanch at Pattan this year.
The police said he was also behind the abduction and killing of many police and security personnel. These included the killing of a CRPF jawan in Anantnag; abduction and killing of a constable in Magam; abduction and killing of an army personnel in Lokipora Khag; killing of an SPO in an encounter at Peth-Zanigam, and killing of one ex-SPO in Buchipora Kawoosa Khalisa.
“Kantroo was also involved in snatching of four AK rifles from the residence of legislator Muzafar Parray at J-13 Jawahar Nagar, Rajbagh. On his directions Abrar Nadeem (neutralised terrorist) carried out an attack on the CRPF at Lawaypora, Srinagar in which three CRPF personnel were killed,” the police said.
Meanwhile, the security forces established contact with the other hiding militants after the killing of Kantroo and his associate, whose identity could not be ascertained. Officials said the security forces offered the trapped militants to surrender. Even the family of a trapped militant was brought to the encounter site. However, till late Thursday evening, the offer did not yield any result.
In a video, the family of a trapped militant asked him to surrender, while describing the militants as “pickpockets and goons.”
“Yet again, I appeal parents of other terrorists to plead their wards to shun the path of violence,” IGP Kumar said.
Meanwhile, the police said they recovered incriminating materials, arms and ammunition from the encounter site. “All the recovered materials have been taken into case records for further investigation,” the officials said.