In a setback to police in Jammu and Kashmir, a sub-inspector who played a key role in counter-insurgency operations was killed in a shootout in Bandipore Wednesday.
According to police, 37-year-old Mohammad Altaf Dar received a tip-off that Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) commander Abu Qasim, said to be the mastermind of the Udhampur terror attack, would be meeting a group of militants in Bandipore.
Accompanied by police personnel, Dar left for Bandipore Tuesday evening. “He and a few police officers were in a private car, pursuing a vehicle in which they believed Qasim and his associates were travelling. When they tried to intercept the vehicle, the militants fired at them. Dar was hit in the neck and abdomen,” a police officer said.
Dar was airlifted to Srinagar where he was declared dead.
“It is a big loss for us,” Inspector General of Police (IGP) Javed Mujtaba Gilani said. “He was one of our best counter-insurgency officers.”
“This is a big jolt for our counter-insurgency operations,” another police officer said. “Dar was one of our best brains. There is no count of the number of militants he helped eliminate. Nobody understood militancy like him. We have lost a repository of knowledge on militancy,” the officer said.
Dar headed a special investigation team and was credited with the police department’s success in some of the most high profile militancy cases in the Valley. For instance, it was Dar’s intelligence inputs that led to the arrest of separatist leader Masarat Alam in 2010. Omar Abdullah, the then Chief Minister, had promoted Dar to the rank of sub-inspector.
Sources said Dar was also the person behind the arrest of Hizbul Mujahideen commanders, including operations chiefs Gazi Misbah and Muzaffar Ahmad Dar, spokesman Junaid-ul-Islam, and commanders Pervez Musharraf and Hanif Khan.
In 2012, when the police department was investigating the killing of its officers, it was Dar who solved the case by arresting Abdul Rashid Shigan — a policeman who had been running a militant module that was behind 13 attacks.
Sources said Dar had also solved the murder of Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadith chief Maulana Showkat Ahmad Shah.
A resident of Kulgam in south Kashmir, Dar started off as an assistant munshi at a police station. He received four promotions in his 15-year career.
“He was working as a muharir (writer or assistant munshi) in a police station when a prisoner escaped from the lock-up,” a police officer said. “He was suspended since he was the most junior official.”
Dar was later attached to the office of then SP, Srinagar South, who recognised his talent. “He (Dar) took a loan to buy a laptop and started recording phone calls of militants,” the officer said. “Soon, everyone recognised his efforts, and he was heading a separate counter-insurgency unit.” Because he was tech-savvy, he was often called “Altaf Laptop”.
Police sources said the NIA would often send its new officers to Dar to understand the militancy problem. “In fact, many IPS officers posted in the Valley would visit him,” an officer said.
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