Srinagar: A wanted Lashker-e-Toiba militant was among three militants killed in day-long fierce gunfight in Budgam district of central Kashmir on Thursday.
“Acting on a technical input generated by SOG Srinagar about presence of a group of (militants) in Waterhail area of Budgam, Police along with (army’s) 62RR and 79Bn CRPF launched a joint cordon and search operation in the area,” a police spokesperson said.
During the search operation, as the joint party preceded towards the suspected spot, he said, the hiding militants fired indiscriminately upon the search party which was retaliated effectively leading to an encounter.
In the ensuing gunfight, he said, three militants of LeT (TRF) were killed. Among them, he said, included Lateef Rather alias Abdullah (top Commander of the outfit) of Badipora Chadoora area of Budgam, Saqib Mushtaq Khan and Muzaffar Ahmad Chopan, both residents of Khonmoh area of Srinagar.
As per police records, all the killed militants were part of a group involved in several cases, he said. Lateef , he said, was a second time recycled militant of LeT/TRF outfit as he was apprehended by Police in case in 2001. Post his release from Jail in 2013, he again joined LeT outfit and started operating as a close associate of Top LeT Commander Abu Qasim ( Pakistani), the spokesperson said.
As per police records, the spokesperson said that Lateef was responsible for a Fidayeen attack on 24 June 2013 in Hyderpora area on an Army Convoy in which 08 Army personnel were killed. Besides, he said, Lateef was also responsible for “plotting, planning and killing” of SHO Police Station Chadoora SI Shabir Ahmed in 2013.
“Subsequently, he was again arrested by Police in 2013 and prosecuted for his involvement in several case. However in November-2021 he got released from Jail.”
Post his release, he again started working for LeT/TRF outfit in Srinagar City and joined the militant folds in February-2022 and assumed the role as Commander TRF, the police spokesperson said in the statement.
“During the year 2022, on the directions of his across border handler Sajjad Gul, Lateef Rather carried out several crimes and civilian atrocities including killing of a Kashmiri Pandit employee Rahul Bhat and an artiste Amreen Bhat in Chadoora area,” the spokesperson said, adding, “Moreover, he was also involved in recruiting the gullible youth of Budgam/Pulwama/Srinagar areas to strengthen the (militant) folds of TRF in these areas.”
Regarding Saqib Mushtaq, the spokesperson said that he was also involved in several cases including killing of DDC Member Sameer Ahmed Dar and firing on non-local labourers in Nowgam area. Muzaffar Chopan, he said, was recently recruited by Lateef Rather and was “involved in a grenade attack in Khanmoh area.”
“ADGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar appreciated the joint teams of Police/SF for carrying out the operation in professional manner without any collateral damage and eliminating the group of (militants) including wanted (militant) Lateef Rather.”
He also termed the Commander as a big success “as he was wanted by law for his involvement in several civilian killings.”
While interacting with media, ADGP Kashmir also shared that all militants involved in target killings have been “neutralised in different encounters except LeT (militant) Basit Dar of Kulgam who would be either arrested or neutralised in encounter at the earliest.” (GNS)