May 2006 News

Evidence of Lashkar role in massacres

5 May 2006
The Hindu
Praveen Swami

Udhampur: Jammu and Kashmir police investigators say hard evidence has begun to emerge that a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) unit carried out the April 30 massacre of 13 shepherds on the Lalon Galla meadow near Basantgarh. Investigators also registered some success against the LeT unit thought to have carried out a simultaneous massacre in the adjoining Doda district. A Pakistani LeT terrorist, so far identified only by his nom de guerre 'Abu Akasha,' was shot dead near Bhaderwah, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's constituency. However, his commander, code-named 'Abu Talha,' escaped. Photos help police Mohammad Siraj- ud-Din and his son, Rukun-ud-Din, sole survivors of the Lalon Galla massacre, identified one of the terrorists as Aijaz Ahmad, a long- standing LeT operative, who hails from Raichak village, near Basantgarh. They recognised Ahmad when they were shown photographs of local terrorists known to be operating with the LeT's mainly Pakistani cadre. Siraj-ud-Din and Rukun-ud-Din, along with the 13 Hindu shepherds, had been kidnapped but the two were released after the terrorists established their religious identity. The father and son then reported the kidnapping to the police. Sources said both of them cooperated with investigators, providing critical information on the attack. Police and Army authorities were optimistic about engaging the terrorists who carried out the Lalon Galla killings after sighting them in a high-altitude forest near Basantgarh. However, the dense forest made it difficult to encircle the group. 'We shall continue tracking the terrorists, however long it takes,' said Udhampur Senior Superintendent of Police Rajesh Yadav. In Doda too, operations against the killers have suffered reverses. 'Abu Talha,' LeT division commander believed to have ordered the massacre in the mountain hamlet of Kulhand, escaped a cordon mounted on Thursday night near Sungli village in Bhaderwah. His lieutenant, 'Abu Akasha,' was killed in the encounter. Intelligence sources confirmed that a cellphone found on his body had been used by 'Abu Talha' in past months. Officials said the phone, one of the several used by the commander to issue orders to overground supporters as well threats to the LeT's opponents, had been monitored for the past several months. However, no communications intelligence was garnered to suggest that a major LeT strike was imminent. Officials said they were optimistic that fire contact would again be made with 'Abu Talha' and his group in the coming weeks. Survivors said six men, including one who spoke the local dialect, had carried out the killings of 19 villagers at Kulhand. Members of the LeT unit led by 'Abu Talha' had visited the village in the past, seeking provisions and help to ferry supplies into the mountains.


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