Pulwama mastermind killed in fierce encounter at Tral: all you need to know

A joint team of Indian security forces has reportedly eliminated two terrorists involved in the February 14 Pulwama attack on a CRPF convoy which killed 40 soldiers.

One of them, Mudasir Ahmed Khan, has been identified as conspirator in bringing about the devastating suicide and was known to be affiliated with Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed as its local commander.

An electrician by profession, Khan was killed in the Pinglish area of Tral, in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district. This was the result of a fierce gunfight that lasted past midnight but luckily without any collateral damage or casualties on the Indian army’s side, Jammu and Kashmir police told ANI.

Addressing a hurriedly called press conference in Srinagar, GoC 15 Chinar Corps Lt Gen KJS Dhillon, accompanied by IG Kashmir SP Pani and IG CRPF Zulfiqar Hussain, confirmed that Khan, alias Mohd Bhai has been eliminated in the encounter.

A second terrorist, possibly a Pakistani man identified by his codename Khalid and also affiliated to the proscribed JeM, was also killed.

Assault on team Pulwama continues

The cordon and search operation was launched on the basis of specific intelligence reports which indicated the presence of terrorists in the Pinglish area. According to police reports, the operation turned into a gunfight after the militants opened fire on the search party, to which the security forces then retaliated.

Charred beyond recognition, the bodies of the slain terrorists took time for the forces to identify and confirm; their identities were later established with the help of family members. Khan’s body was handed over to his family and reportedly buried as well.

In the past three weeks, “We have eliminated 18 terrorists, out of which 14 were JeM cadre, including 6 top commanders,” Dhillon added.“Operations against foreign mercenaries and JeM terrorists will continue till we kill all of them.”

Zulfiqar Hussain, IG CRPF, said the Tral encounter could not be called an “avenge” of the Pulwama terror attack as the CRPF had lost several men. He said, “Our job is still not done. All those people who had supplied explosives, provided logistics, and radicalised youth would be dealt with.”

What we know about Khan so far

Khan, who preferred to maintain a low profile is said to have been the brains behind the heinous suicide attack in Pulwama last month, officials said Sunday.

The 23-year-old was a resident of Pulwama (Mir Mohalla of , to be specific), the eldest son of a , and holds a graduate degree and a diploma from Industrial Training Institute () where he trained for a year as an electrician. He is believed to have arranged the vehicles and explosives used in the terror strike.

Khan and JeM

Khan presumably joined the JeM sometime around 2017 as an overground worker. It was Noor Mohammed Tantrey, alias Noor , who later drew him into the inner rungs of JeM. is also credited for the proscribed group’s revival in the after reports of Azhar being confined in hospital emerged. himself was killed in an encounter in December 2017, shortly after which Khan also went missing from .

Suicide bomber Adil Ahmed Dar who carried out the suicide bombing is believed to have been in constant contact with Khan since then.

According to the police records, both the slain terrorists were affiliated with JeM and were wanted for their complicity in various terror crimes. Besides the Pulwama attack, Khan also had his hands full with the terror strike at the army camp in Sunjawan in February 2018 that left seven casualties including six soldiers, and the Lethpora attack on a CRPF camp in January 2018 where five CRPF personnel were killed.

A day after the Balakot air strike, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which is probing the Pulwama attack, raided his residence on February 27. The search party on Sunday have reportedly laid hands on some material stowed away in their hideout, which will be handed over to the NIA as well.

Khan has been active since January 14, and became a leading force for the JeM in the Valley. His death will certainly cause a major dent to the Jaish leadership in the region, which comes as a major success in India’s fight against Pakistan-based terrorism, but at the cost of the lives of over 40 security personnel.

How can we save Kashmiri youths from pursuing a career in separatism?

Thousands of young Kashmiris take up arms in their quest for an autonomous identity, and to protest against historical persecution, relentless atrocities, and extra-judicial killings in the Valley. They often give up their education and careers to the tune of what seems to them, a more lucrative calling, owing largely to the level of infiltration and brainwashing by separatist outfits. They make heroes out of Burhan Wani, who was 22 when he was killed in a similar encounter, for singlehandedly reviving and the image of militancy in the Valley.

With their faith in the system eroded by years of mis-governance, only the direst option makes sense to the next generation of Kashmiris. The Indian government and army’s response doesn’t exactly help either. Putting teenage stone pelters in jail hoping to reform them, only ends in them coming out as hardened militants. The absence of civil society and human rights interventions, complicates things further.

Dar who hails from south Srinagar and has a history of minor was indoctrinated by handlers JeM — to blow himself up in a fidayeen suicide attack. Before the February 14 attack, he recorded a spine chilling video message that talks about his imminent passage to and his hatred for the Indian infidels.

Meanwhile, South Kashmir resident Sajjad Bhat, for instance, who reportedly procured the Maruti Eeco minivan used in the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast just 10 days prior, is currently on the run and is believed to have become an active terrorist now.

How many of these youths are we willing to lose because of systemic breakdown that they have very little to do with, but which inform the totality of their reality?

Pakistan’s condonation of such efforts in India-administered Kashmir is to blame, but not in isolation. This increasing radicalisation of Kashmiri youths is also rooted in our government’s reluctance to engage in bilateral talks and democratic exercises to resolve the Kashmir dispute, letting the tension simmer in the Valley for decades.

This is not an appeal for sympathy, but a call to action.

The terrorist attack that shook the nation last month has proven, if anything, the utter failure of New Delhi’s Kashmir policy—a result of ongoing violent suppression instead of addressing the issue with dialogue—and no war can ever fix this.

Prarthana Mitra is a Staff Writer at Qrius


EncounterKashmirMudasir Ahmed KhanPulwamaSeparatismTerroristsTral