Lashkar commander among 7 killed
23 December 2001
The Daily Excelsior
Excelsior Special Correspondent
Srinagar: Even as the Lashkar-e-Toiba’s top wanted ''district commander'' Saifullah was among the four militants and two civilians killed in Kashmir valley since last evening, a civilian’s death at the hands of security forces has created tension in Kralpora area of Kupwara district today. Informed sources told EXCELSIOR that, on the basis of a specific information, troops of Rashtriya Rifles 15th Bn and SOG Bandipore launched a combing operation in Lawaypora village of Bandipore, in north Kashmir, last evening. According to the tip-off, Lashkar’s most wanted ''district commander'' Saifullah Askari alias Owais was present in the area alongwith his body-guard, Mirza alias Abu Ali. During the search operation, troops spotted the duo at Waterna, in Kaloosa area, and engaged them in a gunbattle. Both the Pakistani militants got killed. Two AK-56 rifles, four hand grenades and one UBGL were recovered from the site of encounter. While as Police sources maintained that Saifullah was Lashkar’s ''district commander'' for Bandipore, a Defence spokesman claimed that he was the organisation’s ''deputy chief of operations'' in Kashmir valley. Saifullah was in limelight early this month when security forces and SOG Bandipore had lifted and interrogated nine girls from three Bandipore villages with the allegation that they had active links with the Lashkar commander. Two girls were later booked under law as Saifullah’s wireless set was recovered from one of them. However, last week Lashkar-e-Toiba issued a Press statement, saying that Saifullah was being demobilised and sent back to the base camp as he had exceeded his brief by establishing contact with girls. Sources said that, on another tip-off, troops of RR 13th Bn and SOG Ganderbal conducted a search operation at Asham village, in Sumbal, and eliminated two local militants of Hizbul Mujahideen today. Both of them remained unidentified till late tonight. Two AK-56 rifles are said to have been recovered from the site of encounter. This evening, unidentified gunmen appeared at Shirgam, Pattan, and fired upon one Bashir Ahmed Tantray. With critical injuries, he was rushed to hospital where he succumbed. Reports described him as a counter- insurgent source of Army. Reports from Kupwara said that unidentified gunmen shot dead a former Sarpanch and NC activist, Abdul Karim Dar S- o Abdur Rahim Dar of Chandigam during last night. Reports from Kupwara added that during last night, the newly inducted troops of RR 42 Bn picked up a civilian, namely Abdul Gani Ganai S-o Mukhtar Ahmed Ganai at Kralpora village. He allegedly collapsed and died during sustained interrogation. Troops, however, reported at the local Police Station that Ganai was gunned down when he fired pistol shots on a search party. They claimed to have recovered a pistol from his possession. However, Ganai’s relatives and fellow villagers put up a strong demonstration while alleging that he had been killed during interrogation. They even refused to accept the dead body and demanded that Ganai’s killers be also punished under law. Consequently, the dead body was put in the police mortuary. Members of the bereaved family also went to complain the matter to the DGP at a nearby village where relief was being distributed among the destitute. Reports said that Ganai’s daughter took it as an injury to the insult when officials gave her a set of blankets as compensation. She threw away the blankets and returned only to stoke a fire of resentment in the area. As the population raised slogans against security forces and demanded punishment to Ganai’s killers, SOG created barriers and did not allow any civilian movement in the area. On one occasion, there was even an altercation between the SOG and mediapersons who were going to report the DGP’s function.