Rajouri encounter | Lashkar ‘commander’, associate killed in J&K gunfight

Security agencies suspect Qari’s involvement in Dangri and Kandi attacks, and he was instrumental in revival of terrorism in Poonch and Rajouri; 1 more soldier dies, taking the toll to five

November 23, 2023 11:42 am | Updated November 24, 2023 11:54 pm IST - Srinagar/Jammu

Security personnel stand guard at the site after an encounter with militants in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district, on Wednesday.

Security personnel stand guard at the site after an encounter with militants in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district, on Wednesday. | Photo Credit: ANI

Lashkar-e-Taiba’s (LeT) highly-trained ‘commander’ and his associate were killed in a 24-hour gunfight in Rajouri’s Kalakote in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday. One more soldier succumbed to his injuries in the incident, taking the toll to five, including two Army Captains.

“A hard core top LeT commander, Qari, and his associate, were eliminated and large quantities of war-like stores have been recovered from the encounter site. Qari was known to be the mastermind behind the Dangri incident,” a Jammu-based Army spokesman said.

Security agencies suspect Qari’s involvement in the Dangri attack, which left seven civilians dead in January this year, and the Kandi attack, which left five soldiers dead in May this year. “Qari was instrumental in the revival of terrorism in these districts [of Poonch and Rajouri],” the spokesman said.

Official sources said Qari handled around eight to nine militants in the Rajouri-Poonch belt in the past one year. In the stepped up militancy, 13 security personnel and 22 militants were killed in the Jammu region this year. Declared a peaceful and militancy-free zone by 2018, the Rajouri-Poonch came under the radar of militants from 2020, immediately after the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 in 2019.

Army sources said slain Qari was a Pakistani national, who got training on the Pakistan and Afghan front. “He is a highly ranked terrorist. He was an expert in IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices], operating and hiding from caves and a trained sniper,” the sources said.

Officials said incriminating materials, including arms and ammunition, were recovered from the encounter site, which was uphill in Kalakote’s Baji Maal area. “The bodies of two terrorists have been retrieved and taken for further medico-legal formalities by the police. The area is being thoroughly searched to check for any other suspicious article or support structure etc.,” the officials said.

The gunfight also took a heavy toll on the security forces. With one more soldier succumbing to his injuries, the death toll touched five on Thursday.

The deceased have been identified as Captain M.V. Pranjal from Mangaluru, Karnataka; Captain Shubham Gupta from Agra, Uttar Pradesh; Havaldar Abdul Majid from Poonch, Jammu and Kashmir; Lance Naik Sanjay Bisht from Halli Nainital, Uttarakhand, and Paratrooper Sachin Laur from Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh.

Meanwhile, the Army said one pistol, two magazines, 38 live rounds, nine grenades and one battery-operated IED, dropped through a quad copter, were seized on Thursday during a joint operation of the Army and the police in the Laukikhad area of the Akhnoor sector, Jammu. “This has prevented further terror attacks in the Rajouri-Poonch region, thwarting the designs of the adversary to foment violence,” the Army said.

Gupkar alliance’s stand

Meanwhile, the Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) has deplored the Rajouri attack.

“Violence only exacerbates the issues rather than resolving them. The people of Jammu and Kashmir have borne the brunt of violence over the past 30 years. They have a long-standing experience of violence, spurring total devastation and adding more to their problems,” CPI(M) leader and Gupkar alliance spokesman M.Y. Tarigami said.

The Gupkar alliance also expressed solidarity with families of soldiers “who made supreme sacrifices in the line of duty.”

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