A top Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) commender, suspected to be the bomb maker and mastermind of Pulwama attack on a CRPF convoy, was among two terrorists killed in an encounter with security forces in the same district’s Pingilana village on Monday.
Police were yet to confirm the identities of the two terrorists, but IANS quoted defence ministry spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia as saying: “One of the two slain JeM terrorists was a top commander and belonged to Pakistan.”
According to sources, the slain Jaish commander is believed to be behind the suicide attack in Pulwama that claimed the lives of 40 CRPF personnel travelling in a bus to Srinagar on Thursday.
A Jaish operative had rammed a car filled with explosives into a convoy of buses carrying CRPF jawans on Jammu-Srinagar highway in Lethpora of Pulwama district.
Forces looking for the masterminds of the attack launched a cordon and search operation in Pingilana village, about 15 km from the site of the attack, early on Monday. When surrounded the militants opened fire at the forces, triggering retaliation.
In the ensuing 11-hour gunbattle, four army personnel, including a major, and a civilian were killed.
The slain personnel — identified as major VS Dhoundiyal, havaldar Sheo Ram, sepoy Ajay Kumar and sepoy Hari Singh — belonged to the 55 Rashtriya Rifles of the Indian Army.
Heavy exchange of fire was reported and villagers were appealed to stay indoors. The house where the terrorists were hiding was blasted. An AK47 and a pistol were recovered from the site of the encounter.
Recently, two militants were killed on February 13 in a gunfight with the security forces in Badgam district during a cordon and search operation.
Before that, Hizbul Mujahideen militant Hilal Ahmed Rather, the main accused in planning the escape of Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist Naveed Jhutt last year, was gunned down by Jammu and Kashmir police in Pulwama on February 12. An army jawan also lost his life in the encounter in Ratnipora.
As many as five terrorists belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizb-ul Mujahideen were killed in another encounter in Kulgam.