Another Pakistani militant was captured and four more were shot dead in a fierce gunbattle deep in the Rafiabad jungles of Baramulla as the Army and the Jammu and Kashmir Police wound up a four-day joint operation on Thursday.
The captured militant, who initially identified himself as Sajjad Ahmed, 22, is said to be from Muzaffargarh, on the banks of the Chenab river, in southwest Punjab of Pakistan. Security agencies said the five made up a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) module from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Sajjad was forced to come out of hiding from a natural cave as the Army lobbed “chilli grenades”.
The arrest comes three weeks after another LeT suspect from Pakistan, Mohammad Naved, was captured following an attack on a Border Security Force convoy in Udhampur.
It is learnt that the National Investigation Agency, which is pursuing the Udhampur case, is in touch with the Jammu and Kashmir Police to ascertain if Sajjad had any links with Naved.
Sajjad’s arrest, it is learnt, could give fresh ammunition to India to corner Pakistan at international forums regarding its role in launching terrorists into India.
Sharing details of the operation, an Army officer said: “Based on intelligence inputs about the presence of terrorists in the forest areas of Rafiabad, the Army launched a search on Monday. This forced the terrorists to move towards the higher reaches of the Kazinag Dhar Ridge.”
To prevent their escape, the entire area was cordoned off by involving the Special Forces flown in by helicopters. The encounter started on Wednesday morning and one terrorist was killed first. The others fled and took shelter in the natural cave for the night. However, braving the difficult terrain, the forces tracked them down and engaged them.
Tear-gas shells and “chilli grenades” were lobbed to flush them out.
“In a joint operation of the Army and the JK Police, which lasted till Thursday afternoon, three more terrorists were eliminated while one was captured. A huge cache of arms and ammunition was seized,” the officer said.
The weapons include four AK-47 assault rifles and two under-barrel grenade launchers.
It is learnt that Sajjad panicked after the “chilli grenade” attack and was overpowered. He is now being taken to Srinagar for a joint interrogation. “It is a thick jungle and will take hours for the security forces to bring him to a place from where he can be transported to the interrogation centre in a vehicle,” a police officer said.
On August 25 and 26, the Army’s technical intelligence unit picked up signals about a group trying to infiltrate through this area. A cordon was laid and one of the militants was killed on Wednesday, but there was no clue about the others, a senior official said.
When the Army decided to call off the operation, a Major insisted that the terrorists were still on Indian territory and hence a crack team of various units was formed for a search operation.