Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - - News - Toufiq.rashid@hin­dus­tan­times.com

a ma­jor blow to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Kash­mir, se­cu­rity forces killed two ter­ror­ists — in­clud­ing the al­leged mas­ter­mind of a deadly at­tack on Amar­nath ya­tris earlier this year — at Nowgam on the out­skirts of Srinagar on Thurs­day evening.

LeT leader Abu Is­mail (24) and his as­so­ciate, Abu Kasim, were “elim­i­nated” in the en­counter, Jammu and Kash­mir di­rec­tor gen­eral of po­lice Shesh Paul Vaid said on Twit­ter, con­grat­u­lat­ing se­cu­rity forces.

The forces sus­pected Is­mail’s in­volve­ment in the killing of eight Amar­nath Ya­tra pil­grims at Anant­nag on July 10, al­though the LeT de­nied it, be­sides the at­tack on CRPF per­son­nel near DPS-Srinagar in June. He is the fourth top mil­i­tant leader to be killed in the Val­ley since 2016.

Kash­mir in­spec­tor gen­eral of po­lice Muneer Khan con­firmed Is­mail’s death at a press con­fer­ence on Thurs­day evening.

Khan said the duo was killed at Arigam in Nowgam in a joint op­er­a­tion of the Army, CRPF and the po­lice, launched on the ba­sis of spe­cific in­tel­li­gence in­puts.

“At 4.15 pm, con­tact was es­tab­lished with two ter­ror­ists who were in hid­ing. Both were killed in a very brief and crisp en­counter, and there was no col­lat­eral dam­age,” he dis­closed, adding that two ri­fles were re­cov­ered from the spot.

Both Is­mail and Kasim hailed from Pak­istan.

Is­mail, an A-plus cat­e­gory mil­i­tant in­volved in 15 crim­i­nal cases in­clud­ing mur­der, had taken over the reins of the LeT’s south Kash­mir op­er­a­tions after his pre­de­ces­sor — Abu Du­jana — was killed in an en­counter last month. Khan said the op­er­a­tion was suc­cess­ful be­cause Kash­miris wanted the ter­ror­ists to pay for their crimes. “Th­ese peo­ple had at­tacked un­armed Amar­nath ya­tris, and there was wide­spread con­dem­na­tion of the at­tack,” he added.

Se­cu­rity forces are still hunt­ing for two oth­ers, a lo­cal res­i­dent and a Pak­istani mil­i­tant, in­volved in the Anant­nag at­tack. Ma­jor Gen­eral BS Raju, gen­eral of­fi­cer com­mand­ing of Vic­tor Force, said the op­er­a­tion was im­por­tant be­cause Is­mail’s death was likely to cre­ate a vac­uum in the LeT lead­er­ship.

Du­jana (27) and an­other mil­i­tant were shot dead in a shootout be­tween mil­i­tants and se­cu­rity forces at Pul­wama’s Hakri­pora vil­lage on Au­gust 1. Hizbul Mu­jahideen lead­ers Burhan Wani and Sabzar Bhat were earlier killed by se­cu­rity forces.

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