Hammer blow to Lashkar
2 December 2005
New Delhi: In what experts are describing as a hammer blow to the Lashkar-e- Taiba's operations in Jammu and Kashmir, the police on Friday eliminated three top terrorists and encircled the organisation's overall commander for military operations. Ubaid-ur-Rahman, a resident of Mohalla Gulistan in Faisalabad, Mohammad Salim, of Lalookhet in Karachi, and Sadaqat Ali, of Wah Cantonment were killed in the course of the most successful counter-Lashkar operation in over a year. All the three militants are believed to have crossed the Line of Control on November 20, with instructions to carry out fidayeen (suicide-squad) attacks on targets in Srinagar. Sources told The Hindu the Jammu and Kashmir police that the authorities encircled the Lashkar's overall commander for military operations, Mohammad Rashid Sulfi. Sulfi, who narrowly escaped a joint Intelligence Bureau and police operation which led to the arrest of over a dozen Lashkar operatives in 2004, is believed to have ordered several high-profile attacks, including the recent assassination of Jammu and Kashmir Minister Ghulam Nabi Lone, and an abortive 2004 attempt on the life of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Jammu and Kashmir police investigators, the sources said, were led to the Lashkar unit in the course of an investigation into a November 30 bank robbery. On Thursday, the State police arrested Srinagar residents Shakeel Ahmad Sofi and Shabbir Ahmad Bukhari for their alleged role in the armed robbery. Searches at their home near the Kashmir University campus led to the surprise recovery of ammunition, grenades and a satellite phone concealed inside a washing machine — equipment typically used by terrorists, not bank robbers. Interrogation of Bukhari and Sofi led to the revelation that the robbery had been carried out to finance the Lashkar's operations in the Srinagar area. In recent weeks, the Lashkar carried out several high profile bombings and suicide squad attacks in and around Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital, but was facing a funds crunch because of the disruption of its infrastructure in the wake of the October 8 earthquake in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. Sofi, the investigators have found, used his connections in the State Youth Congress to obtain documents identifying himself and the three killed Pakistanis as members of the organisation. Sofi had joined the National Conference in 2002 and was given official accommodation at the Dolphin Hotel in Srinagar after he claimed he faced terrorist threats. He joined the Youth Congress recently, and continued to use his political work as cover for his activities as a Lashkar operative.