Baramulla: A shocking shootout in Baramulla last week might have gone down as a typical strike by militant to bump off “informers”, but those involved in the counter-insurgency said the attack had a deeper motive. They said the attack was carried out by militants to create dominance in a region which is otherwise tightly managed by the Jammu and Kashmir Police and its allied forces.
The police termed the Baramulla strike as an attempt by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) — active in the Sopore-Hajin belt — to establish its dominance in the region. In the past few years, fierce counter-insurgency operations pushed militants to the margins. While the latest attack might be a “desperate bid” by militants to show their strength, it has already unnerved the region's pro-India constituents.
North Kashmir, with its territorial mosaic composition, has a reputation of being a zone frequented by militants. Given the region’s proximity to the Line of Control — known for infiltration bids and fierce gunfights — it mainly houses militants of LeT, their local handlers and faces.
To counter these battle-hardened militants, who are unlike the “selfie militants” of south Kashmir, the government has already stationed some tested counter-insurgents in the region known for some biggest gunfights in Kashmir history.
Soon after the 30 April strike, police’s collaborative efforts nabbed local militants in a series of operations carried out in Sopore and Baramulla. These operations were carried out after twin gunfights in Srinagar and Shopian seemed as if they'd trigger another political crisis in the Valley.
Assured that the strikes were the handiwork of LeT militants, the police visited the crime scene in Baramulla town — known to wear the anti-establishment temper on its sleeve — soon after the three men in their 20s were killed (an incident which greatly shocked the townspeople).
During the course of their investigation, the sleuths learned that the militants, after carrying out executions in the town’s Kaker Hamam area, escaped in a silver Alto car. They fled towards Drangbal area, the tip of the town.
The investigation, which was carried out on a war footing, zeroed in on one local: Bilal Najar. The investigators learned that Najar tracked the movements of the slain trio. Najar's capture gave away the larger plot behind the strike.
The killing, the police said, was carried out by Najar, Aijaz Gojree and Suhaib Farooq Akhoon, a local who'd travelled to Pakistan via Wagah border and trained in LeT's Faisalabad camp before returning through the same route last year.
To hunt these militants, police launched a joint operation with Indian Army in Drangbal area. “It was miracle we were able to get them alive”, said Baramulla police chief, SSP Imtiyaz Hussain. “They fired with AK-47s and a pistol, but we captured two individuals. After interrogating them, we came to know three people are involved in this crime in old town”.
During sustained interrogation of these militants, the police and army were also able to unearth a LeT module operating in Sopore-Baramulla belt, Hussain said. “In all, four active LeT militants were apprehended along with six Over Ground Workers (OGWs)”. In 2016, the police said the LeT released a video in which they mentioned the names of two people and threatened to kill them.
The strikes reminded many of Baramulla’s heyday when the city was rife with insurgency and gave the establishment a hard time. In the late 80s, along with Sopore, the belt had become one of the epicentres of the Kashmir insurgency. By 2008, as the defiance mainly shifted to stone-pelting, the town rose up in a series of anti-establishment demonstrations which rocked the State apparatus.
“But today there is a huge model of LeT operating from Sopore to Baramulla”, SSP Hussian said. “The civilian killings are being carried out throughout north Kashmir to show their presence”. Police said even the killings carried out in Hajin area by the LeT were to “terrorise the local population and get them on their side”.
“But they have not been able get support on the ground”, said north Kashmir Deputy Inspector General of Police Sunil Gupta, “We will soon get them”.
Updated Date: May 09, 2018 18:59 PM