Top Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Abu Dujana, 26, a Pakistani national suspected to be behind several attacks in South Kashmir, and his local associate, Arif Ahmad Dar, 17, were killed in an encounter at Harkipora village in Pulwama district on Tuesday morning. The encounter triggered protests in the area. A youth was killed and over 20 injured when security forces fired teargas shells, pellets and bullets to disperse the stone-pelting crowd.
Giving details of the operation, Director General of Police S P Vaid said they acted on specific information on the presence of militants in a house in Harkipora village. In a joint operation, the J&K Police Special Operation Group, Army’s Rashtriya Rifles and the Central Reserve Police Force set up a cordon around the village at about 4 am.
Sources said security agencies had information that Dujana often visited the house of a villager, Khurshid, in Harkipora. Their inquiries reportedly revealed that he had married Khurshid’s daughter, Ruqaiya, about six or seven months ago. On Tuesday, he was killed in Ruqaiya’s house.
“We had inputs about two Lashkar terrorists being present inside the house. All the residents of the house were evacuated before the encounter began. Two terrorists were killed in the exchange of fire. Two bodies were recovered from the site — one was Abu Dujana and the other was Arif from Lelhar,” confirmed Director General of Police S P Vaid.
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“It is a big achievement for us since this terrorist (Dujana) had been spreading terror for a long time… he was A++ category militant,” he added. The encounter began at about 8 am, and was over within 40 minutes after security forces blasted the house.
Dujana, who carried a reward of Rs 15 lakh on his head, is suspected to have sneaked into the Valley some years ago. Dar, his associate, was from the neighbouring Lelhar village and had joined militancy about a year ago. While Dar was buried in Lelhar, Dujana’s body was yet to be handed over.
Dujana was elevated as the top Lashkar commander after the killing of Abu Qasim in 2015. He was also one of the top Lashkar recruiters, especially in South Kashmir. His name figured in a recent list released by the Army of top militant commanders active in South Kashmir.
Dujana was suspected to have masterminded several attacks in South Kashmir, including the attack on security personnel at Pampore and on the Entrepreneurship Development Institute in Sempora area last year. Officials said he was behind most of the attacks on convoys of security forces on the National Highway in South Kashmir.
While some reports indicated that Dujana had joined the Zakir Musa group following differences with the Lashkar leadership, police on Tuesday described him as the “chief commander” of Lashkar. Sources, however, confirmed that Dujana was in touch with Musa.
Dar was wanted in connection with four bank robberies. Meanwhile, even as the encounter was in progress, villagers tried to march towards the site. A youth, identified as Firdous Ahmad Khan from the neighboring Begumbagh Pampore area, died after he was hit by a bullet on his chest. “The youth had already succumbed to his injuries when he was brought to hospital,’’ said an official of the district hospital in Pulwama.
Following the incident, the government snapped mobile internet and closed all schools. The joint separatist leadership called for a day-long strike on Wednesday to protest against the youth’s death.