A TOP Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) commander who police said belonged to the family of Masood Azhar was among two militants killed in a gunfight in South Kashmir’s Pulwama Saturday morning. Police said the commander was the mastermind behind the attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama in 2019 that had left 40 dead.
Police said Mohammad Ismail Alvi, also known as Saifullah, Adnan or Lamboo (tall), was cornered by a joint team off Nagberan Tarsar, a forest area in Pulwama. General Officer Commanding (GoC), Victor Force, Rashim Bali called the killing “probably the biggest strike of the year”. The militant who was killed with him is yet to be identified.
“Saifullah was accused, rather the main accused, in the Lethpora (Pulwama) attack. His name figures in the NIA chargesheet also,” IGP, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar said, adding that of the 19 accused in the attack, seven have been killed and seven arrested, while five remain absconding.
Kumar said Saifullah was an expert in making Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and the forces expect the attacks on them using IEDs to come down now.
GoC, 15 Corps, Lt Gen D P Pandey said Saifullah had trained several militants in making and deploying IEDs, and also helped identify susceptible locals who were then brainwashed, radicalised, and armed.
Kumar said Saifullah, who was related to Pakistan-based Jaish chief Masood Azhar, had entered Kashmir in 2017 winter through the Shikargah sector and had been active in South Kashmir since then. “There were 14 FIRs registered against him.”
The forces claimed to have captured a telescopic M4 carbine, an AK-47 rifle, a Glock pistol and a Chinese pistol from the slain militants.
Bali said they had received tip-off regarding Saifullah on July 27, but as it was raining heavily in the area, the Army took a circuitous road to approach it. “The men zeroed in on the cluster of dhoks (a kind of living quarters) Saturday morning. The dogs started barking and this may have alerted them (the terrorists). They pushed the women out and then the children. They opened automatic fire from behind and lobbed grenades,” the GoC said. “But since the cordon was tight, as soon as they fired, the well-trained boys of the Victor Force retaliated.”
Bali said both the terrorists were dead in two to three minutes.
The Pulwama attack had been carried out on February 14, 2019, when a fidayeen, Adil Ahmad Dar, had rammed his explosive-laden car into a CRPF convoy on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway. The attack, the first of this scale, had threatened to escalate to a full-blown war between India and Pakistan.