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Posted at: Sep 14, 2017, 5:33 PM; last updated: Sep 15, 2017, 1:33 AM (IST)

Amarnath attack mastermind Abu Ismail killed in Nowgam gunfight

Govt orders closure of schools and colleges in Srinagar tomorrow
Amarnath attack mastermind Abu Ismail killed in Nowgam gunfight
Abu Ismail. File photo

Majid Jahangir

Tribune News Service

Srinagar,September14

The mastermind of the Amarnath yatra attack, Abu Ismail, was killed along with his associate in a brief gunfight on the outskirts of Srinagar on Thursday afternoon, officials said.

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Ismail, a Pakistani national who was the operation chief of Lashkar-e-Toiba, had led the attack on the Amarnath pilgrims in July along the Srinagar-Jammu highway at Anantnag that had left eight pilgrims dead and 19 injured.   

Police had blamed Lashkar for the attack.

Following the killing of the top Lashkar militant, the government has ordered closure of all schools and colleges in Srinagar tomorrow. Restrictions to be put in place in five police stations of the city.

“Abu Ismail was killed in a brief gunfight at Nowgam along with his aide,” IG CRPF Inspector General Ravideep Sahi said.

The gunfight erupted when security forces launched an anti-militancy operation in the area after an input about his presence.

 “On specific information, a joint operation was launched in Aribagh in Nowgam area on the outskirts of Srinagar city. It was around 4.15 pm that a contact was established with the two hiding terrorists in a house there. In a very brief encounter, both the terrorists were killed,” Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Munir Khan said.

He was addressing a joint press conference along with general officer commanding of the Army’s Victor Force, Major General B S Raju, and IG CRPF Ravideep Singh Sahi.

Khan said the other terrorist has been identified as Abu Qasim alias Chota Qasim.

“The bodies of the slain terrorists have been kept at the appropriate place for appropriate disposal,” he said.

The IGP said two AK rifles, UBGLs and other material were recovered from them.

He said Ismail was involved in 15 cases including the July 10 attack on a bus carrying Amarnath yatra pilgrims.

“After the elimination of Abu Dujana, he (Ismail) had taken over as the chief of LeT in the Valley. He was involved in around 15 criminal cases which included murder, dacoities and other militancy related incidents. So, I compliment our teams for executing a wonderful operation with no collateral damage,” Khan said.

“The day they (militants) killed yatris, the people said that such they should be brought to justice and today they have been brought to justice. It is a great success for the security forces. A chapter of these terrorists has been closed. Tomorrow will be a new day for us. We will start our work afresh.

“When the attack took place, there was total condemnation of the act committed by terrorists from all sections of the society and people said loud and clear that these killers must be killed. So, from that day onwards, these killers were our targets and our teams – whether they be police, Army or the CRPF — were looking for them,” he said.

He thanked the people for “expressing that sentiment that time because that was against Kashmiriyat. No Kashmiri liked that”.

Asked whether all the militants behind the attack have been neutralised, the IGP said “One foreign and one local terrorist are left.”

He said Ismail was an “A++” category militant while Qasim was “A+” category, but refused to share further details of the operation.

“It is better not to ask such questions because they are operational details which we do not want to divulge. It is not that whole militancy has been wiped out by their killing. So, it is better not to divulge the details,” he said.

Khan said the priority of the security forces is to neutralise the militant leadership in the Valley.

“Militant leadership is important to be neutralised. That has to be eliminated because they not only are militants but also provoke and motivate children. The priority is to neutralise the militant leadership. You know who are the leaders and they will be our next target,” he said.

He, however, said “we have a long way to go and we will keep on trying.”

Maj Gen Raju said Ismail’s killing is extremely important because he was responsible for the death of about 14 security forces personnel and eight civilians.

“This success is also important because we are expecting vacuum in the foreign terrorists’ leadership of the LeT. After the death of Abu Qasim, then Abu Dujana and now Ismail. In between we also killed (Abu) Ali. Now, we are looking at a serious deficiency in their leadership which should give us more opportunities,” he said. — With PTI

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