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Pulwama attack ‘mastermind’ among 3 Jaish militants killed in Tral gunfight

SRINAGAR

The mastermind of the February 14 Pulwama suicide attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel is believed to have been killed in an encounter in the Tral area of South Kashmir, officials said Monday.

The encounter in Pinglish area of Tral in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district lasted past midnight in which Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militants Mudasir Ahmed Khan alias ‘Mohd Bhai’ was among the three militants killed, the officials said.

The bodies of the three militants are charred beyond recognition and efforts are on to establish their identity, they said.

The security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Pinglish after receiving specific intelligence input about the presence of militants in the area.

The operation turned into an encounter after the militants opened fire at the search party of the forces who retaliated.

Lesser-known JeM militant Khan has been identified as the brains behind the audacious strike in Pulwama that left 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel dead on February 14, officials said on Sunday.

Piecing together evidence gathered so far, security officials said that 23-year-old Khan, an electrician with a graduate degree and a resident of Pulwama, arranged the vehicle and explosives used in the militant strike.

A resident of Mir Mohalla of Tral, Khan joined the JeM sometime in 2017 as an overground worker and was later drawn into the militant outfit by Noor Mohammed Tantrey, alias ‘Noor Trali’, who is believed to have helped the militant group’s revival in the Kashmir Valley.

After Tantray was killed in December 2017, Khan disappeared from his home on January 14, 2018 and has been active since then.

Suicide attacker Adil Ahmed Dar, who blew his explosive-laden vehicle next to a bus in a CRPF convoy on February 14, had been in constant contact with Khan, officials said.

After completing his graduation, Khan did a one-year diploma course as electrician from an Industrial Training Institute (ITI). The eldest son of a labourer, Khan is also believed to be involved in the suicide strike at the army camp in Sunjawan in February 2018, in which six personnel and a civilian were killed.

His role has also come under lens in the Lethpora attack on a CRPF camp in January 2018 that left five CRPF personnel dead.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the February 14 attack, had carried out searches at the residence of Khan on February 27.

A Maruti Eeco minivan was used in the Pulwama attack and it was bought by another JeM operative just 10 days before the suicide attack.

The JeM operative, identified as Sajjad Bhat, a resident of Bijbehara in south Kashmir, has since been on the run and is believed to have become an active militant now, they said.

(PTI)

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