Masood Azhar's slain nephew Talha Rashid helped JeM expand its Valley footprint, worked closely with HM, LeT

Srinagar: Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar's nephew, Talha Rashid, had worked closely with other militant outfits – including the Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) – in Kashmir before he was killed in a late night encounter with security forces in Pulwama on Monday.

Rashid, who was believed to be between 28 to 30 years of age, was active in Kashmir following the attack on the Pathankot Air Force Station in January last year, for which Azhar was placed under house arrest by Pakistan authorities.

According to top security officials, Rashid had infiltrated into the Valley along with another Pakistani militant Mehmood Bhai after the uprising in Kashmir, which was triggered by the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Muzafar Wani last year in July. Both of them had been active in many attacks on the forces in south Kashmir since.

A file image of Maulana Masood Azhar. Reuters

A file image of Maulana Masood Azhar. Reuters

Sources said that the recent operational strategy of the JeM was different in south Kashmir, as it carried out joint (with other militant outfits) attacks on the forces. A senior police official said that both Rashid and Mehmood were active in Kashmir for nearly the last eight months. Director General of Police, SP Vaid, said that Rashid was involved in a recent attack on the police, in which one officer was killed.

"Rashid was a commander of JeM while Mehmood was the divisional commander of the militant outfit,'' he said. Rashid was working closely with other militant outfits, which was unlike JeM's strategy. The JeM has around 20 militants in its ranks and only three-four local militants remain associated with it.

The group has been responsible for many fidayeen attacks on the forces and carries out major militant attacks by storming into the police and army bases. "Both Rashid and Mehmood were among the few militants active in Kashmir for a long time and their survival would've meant that the security forces could've seen some large-scale attacks," a senior police official said.

He added that the two Pakistani JeM militants could've carried out major militant attacks in the Valley, especially at a time when the Government of India's Kashmir interlocutor, Dineshwar Sharma, is trying to reach out to different groups in Kashmir for talks.

Briefing reporters about the operation in Pulwama, in which three militants were killed, Inspector General (IG) of police, Muneer Khan, said that they will ask the Pakistani authorities to claim Rashid's body after the militant outfit confirmed his identity.

Sources said that the police was on Rashid's trail ever since a local militant of Drubgam area of Pulwama, Sameer Tiger, brandished a US-made M4 weapon, photos of which went viral on social media. "The JeM militants were working together with Hizbul and LeT militant outfits,'' a senior police official said.

Police officials said that the weapons recovered from the militants were same as the ones seen in the viral photos, though they added that there could be more such US-made weapons with other militants. An AK 47 rifle and a pistol were also recovered from Rashid.

Besides Rashid and Mehmood, the identity of the third militant was ascertained as Wasim Ahmad Ganie, a local militant of Drubgam area of Pulwama. Waseem was active since the last two and half months and had joined the JeM ranks on 18 August this year. He had dropped out of school after studying till 9th standard before joining militancy, said a police official.

During the encounter, an army jawan was also killed while a civilian received injuries. The condition of the civilian was, however, stated to be stable.

Superintendent of police, Pulwama, Mohammad Aslam, said that the slain militants had been involved in a number of attacks. "Both Rashid and Mehmood were involved in many incidents of militancy. Mehmood was the mastermind in the attack on district police lines (DPL) in Pulwama and had also carried out the attack on a police party at Rajpora in which one of our police constables, Abdul Salam, died. Also, the grenade attack on a beauty parlour in Pulwama recently was jointly carried out by Hizbul, JeM and LeT.''

Both the JeM and Hizbul paid tributes to the slain militants. United Jihad Council (UJC) chief Syed Salahuddin said in a statement to the local press that the "sacrifices of the youth will not go (to) waste.''

On Saturday, militants had attacked the Rajpora police station in which two policemen were injured. Earlier, on 12 October, militants had lobbed a grenade at a busy Pulwama chowk, which left two injured. The grenade was hurled near the busy Shaheed park chowk area where the security forces remain deployed in large numbers.

Similarly, on 27 August, three JeM militants were killed after they stormed into District Police Lines (DPL) Pulwama. In the attack, eight security personnel including four CRPF personnel were killed.

Updated Date: Nov 07, 2017 17:05 PM

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