A top Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) ‘commander’, Noor Mohammad Tantray, who had jumped parole earlier this year, was killed in an encounter in Samboora village in Pulwama district of South Kashmir early on Tuesday morning.
Tantray, 47, who was only three-feet-tall, was reported to be behind the recent attacks in the Valley. As the JeM’s ‘divisional commander’ in South Kashmir, he was reported to have played an instrumental role in reviving the outfit.
Deputy Inspector General of Police, South Kashmir, S P Pani said that “a cluster of houses at Samboora village was cordoned off” late on Monday night, following “a specific input”. “A fierce gun battle followed, leading to the elimination of top Jaish commander Noor Mohammed Tantray,’’ he said.
Officials said Tantray was hiding inside a house, along with two or three other militants, when the operation was launched. His accomplices are reported to have escaped.
Villagers said they heard gunshots around midnight, followed by IED blasts that left the house completely damaged. Police said Tantray’s body was recovered, along with his weapon, from the rubble of the house.
Police said Tantray was earlier a close aide of Jaish commander Ghazi Baba, who masterminded the 2001 attack on Parliament. After Ghazi Baba was killed, Tantray was arrested from Delhi’s Sadar Bazar on August 31, 2003. The Delhi Police claimed to have recover Rs 19.2 lakh from his possession and accused him of being in touch with JeM militants.
In January 2011, Tantray and four others, including two from Kashmir, were sentenced to life imprisonment by a POTA court in Delhi. After being lodged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail for some time, he was shifted to Srinagar. Tantray was released on parole in 2015, after which the Jammu and Kashmir High Court extended his parole several times.
According to the police, Tantray remained in Tral and became a major overground worker of the JeM. “In July, after the Aripal encounter in which three JeM terrorists were killed, Tantray went underground and soon became the Jaish’s key man in coordinating and organising attacks at different places,” said a senior police officer.
The officer added that Tantray was one of the chief architects of the attack on a BSF camp near Srinagar airport in October, and was also wanted in connection with a number of attacks in south and central Kashmir.
Defence spokesperson Rajesh Kalia told The Indian Express that Tantray was on the Army’s “wanted list” also.
Police sources earlier told The Indian Express that Tantray, a resident of Tral in Pulwama district, had taken over command of the JeM in South Kashmir and was engineering the outfit’s bid to regroup in the Valley.
According to these sources, Tantray provided logistical support to JeM militants who stormed the District Police Lines in Pulwama in August. Eight security personnel and three militants were killed in that attack.
Sources said Tantray was also found to be involved in the grenade attack on State PWD Minister Naeem Akhtar’s cavalcade in Tral on September 21.
Tantray’s death is seen as a big blow for the JeM. A complete shutdown was observed in Tral area on Tuesday, and Internet and railway services were suspended in South Kashmir. His funeral was attended by many, including some militants who offered a gun salute.