Top Lashkar-e-Taiba militant commander Naveed Jatt, who was wanted in connection with the assassination of journalist Shujaat Bukhari and had escaped from custody in February, was killed along with an accomplice in an encounter in Jammu and Kashmir’s Budgam district on Wednesday, officials said.
Three army personnel were injured in the encounter that claimed the life of “most wanted” Jatt, they said.
The LeT militant was a Pakistani national, Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh said.
“We’ll be writing to the Ministry of Home Affairs to inform Pakistan to take the body,” Singh told PTI.
Jatt’s endgame started in the early hours of Wednesday when a special operations group of the Jammu and Kashmir police cordoned off a house at Kuthpora locality in Chhattergam in Budgam following an intelligence input about the presence of militants, officials said.
“As per ground verification, the chief commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba in the valley (Naveed Jatt) has been killed in the operation at Budgam which started last night and ended this morning,” Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbagh Singh told reporters here.
He said Jatt’s killing, along with one of his associates, was a big success for the security forces.
“You have seen recently in south Kashmir, youths were picked up on various pretexts, branding them as informers, and shot dead or slaughtered,” the DGP said.
“There were bank robberies and police personnel were targeted. People must have heaved a sigh of relief at his killing,” he said.
Singh said Jatt, who had escaped from SMHS hospital, where he was taken for a medical examination, after killing two cops, was a “dreaded militant”.
He also played an important role in motivating many people to join militancy, the officer said.
Singh said it was extremely difficult to track down Jatt as he had escaped from the security forces’ clutches more than once in the past.
“Even today, there were rumours that he has managed to escape but this time he was not lucky,” he said.
Asked about Jatt’s involvement in Bukhari’s killing in June this year, Singh said the LeT commander was one of the suspects in the case.
“Such evidence about the involvement of the militant can be corroborated if you catch him alive. But it was difficult to catch him alive,” he said.
“If he had been caught alive, we would have perhaps got more leads to corroborate as to what kind of involvement he had. Now we can say that the prime suspect has been neutralised,” he added.
Singh said people’s cooperation of the people with security forces in the wake of militants targeting civilians and police personnel has led to the elimination of nearly two dozen ultras in the past week.
A gun battle broke out when those holed up inside the house fired at security forces, they said, detailing the events leading to Jatt’s killing. The forces retaliated and the firing intensified as the militants moved from one house to another.
The operation was interrupted when locals cried for help from one of the houses and had to be evacuated. During this process, the militants fired at the police and army teams, leading to minor injuries to the armymen who were shifted to hospital, officials said.
At daybreak, two militants were killed. They were identified when security forces started clearing and sanitising the area. One of them turned out to be Jatt, who staged a dramatic escape from a government hospital here in February this year.
“It was swift operation carried out by security forces. We finally got the prize catch Naveed Jatt, who was a Pakistani national,” Singh said.
“He has managed to give us the slip in six different encounters but today our boys managed to pin him down,” the DGP added.
Jatt escaped from SMHS hospital on February 6 after he was caught in Kulgam in south Kashmir in 2014. He was moved to hospital with suspected scabies after complaining of itchiness to the medical staff at the Central Jail Srinagar.