Talha Rashid, nephew of Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar Alvi, was among three militants killed in a security operation late Monday in Pulwama in south Kashmir.
A US-made M4 carbine was recovered from their possession — possibly lost in combat in Afghanistan, the M4 featured widely in online propaganda posts last week after a militant from the Rajpora area released photographs posing with it.
Victor Force GOC B S Raju, accompanied by Kashmir IGP Muneer Khan, told a press conference in Srinagar: “The prize catch of this operation were two foreign terrorists. One of them, of course, is Talha. This man is supposed to be the nephew of Masood Azhar, as has been admitted by JeM. The other is Mehmood Bhai, divisional commander of JeM.” The third militant killed was Kashmir resident Wasim Ganai.
In the gunbattle that lasted five hours at Aglar village of Pulwama, a soldier was also killed and a civilian injured.
Police sources said Talha, a resident of Bahawalpur in Pakistan, was the son of Azhar’s sister and had infiltrated into the Valley in March this year.
“He (Talha) was first operating in north Kashmir and had recently shifted to south Kashmir,” a senior police officer said.
Sources said Talha’s brother is also in Kashmir and active in south Kashmir. Talha was part of the JeM founded by his uncle Azhar after his release from an Indian jail following the hijack of Indian Airlines flight IC 814 in 1999.
GOC Raju said: “The highlight of the operation was the M4 carbine. The rifle is used by NATO forces and also by the special forces of Pakistan. We have reasons to believe that this particular weapon was given by Pakistan Army to JeM cadres. This clearly shows the complicity between Pakistan and JeM.”
Jaish commanders in Pakistan, who have been operating openly despite an official ban on the organisation, launched a major fundraising and recruitment drive this summer. A record 72 militants have been killed in south Kashmir so far this year, including 10 from Jaish.
On Monday night, sources said, when security personnel arrived at Aglar, six kilometres from Rajpora, they didn’t know they had encircled Azhar’s nephew. They had only one specific input: Jaish militants, who had killed a policeman in an ambush in Rajpora three days earlier, were hiding there.
“The information was specific. Our source told us that the Jaish guys have arrived. We knew they were staying in Ghulam Mohammad Lone’s house. We knew Lone, an overground worker (OGW) of Jaish,’’ IGP Muneer Khan told The Indian Express. “The inner cordon was laid swiftly.”
He said it took police two days to plan this operation. “We have been pursuing this group of Jaish militants ever since they killed constable Abdul Salam.”
Police knew three militants, including Mehmood Bhai, were inside the house. Lone was questioned about the presence of the militants. “By then, one of the militant had come out and opened fire. The bullet hit the head of a soldier who died on the spot,’’ sources said. The militants were killed in the gunbattle that followed.