Rajiv Nagar carnage planned in Surankote
7 August 2002
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: The worst ever carnage of civilians, executed by two Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorists at Rajiv Nagar on July 13 evening, was planned by LeT leadership in a house in Phagla village in Surankote tehsil of Poonch district on July 10. The house owner, who was an active harbourer of Lashkar leadership, was known with a code name of Mohd Fareed and had gone underground the day one of the massacre accused Mohd Abdullah alias Abu Talha, hailing from Multan, Pakistan, was captured alive by police from Raika forests, police officials interrogating Abu Talha for last three days told EXCELSIOR today. Quoting from preliminary but sustained interrogation of Abu Talha, the officials said a conspiracy to kill a large number of civilians, belonging to a particular community, was hatched in the house of Mohd Fareed. Besides Fareed, Lashkar hitman Abu Umar, another upperground harbourer of the terrorists Altaf Hussain and two fidayeens—Mohd Idnan alias Abu Idnan of Lahore and Abu Talha were involved in the conspiracy. Both Altaf Hussain and Mohd Fareed were ‘zamindars’ in Phagla. Grey bearded Altaf was 49 years of age while Fareed was over 45. While Abu Idnan was killed in an encounter with police on August 2, Abu Talha was apprehended the next day. On the basis of Talha’s disclosures, police have arrested Altaf Hussain while Abu Umar and Mohd Fareed were absconding. A Jammu Police party was camping in Surankote to apprehend Mohd Fareed. Police sources said the arrest of Fareed was expected anytime now but admitted that they might not be able to catch hold of Abu Umar, the prime conspirator, immediately. They said the ‘services’ of two Lashkar ‘fidayeens’ were kept at the disposal of Abu Umar by LeT’s Muzafarrabad based commander Abu Waqas. Abu Talha told his interrogators that they gave a final shape to the carnage on July 10. Next day, Idnan and Talha accompanied by Altaf Hussain left for Jammu in a bus. At that time, they were not carrying weapons with them. Trio reached Narwal By-Pass on July 11 evening and finally selected Rajiv Nagar locality as their target. After selecting the target, Altaf Hussain left the spot while Idnan and Talha spent night in a surrounding forest. They were delivered weapons and grenades by Mohd Fareed in the forests on July 12 at 2000 hours after which Fareed also left the forests, the sources said. On fateful day i.e. July 13, the terrorists reached Rajiv Nagar at 12 noon and had a close look on lanes and by-lanes linked to the slums. They took a bottle of Pepsi each in a shop in Rajiv Nagar before striking on the hapless civilians. Police said the terrorists in total lobbed five grenades on the locality and emptied six magazines (180 rounds) from their two AK-56 rifles. The terrorist told police that they started firing from one end of the locality and went upto the other before fleeing from the spot. Meanwhile, police said the ‘circumstantial evidence’ like bullets, empties, splinters of the grenades and other ballistic material, collected from the spot, has been sent to Forensic laboratory. A report from the lab was awaited. Police said both the terrorists took shelter in Raika forests after the massacre. They had already purchased biscuits worth Rs 100 and a bottle of water which they used for next six days. Talha revealed that in the commotion both of them lost their fake identity cards, which had been provided to them by Altaf Hussain, in Raika forests. ''We would have escaped from the forests and boarded a bus for Surankote but we knew that we would be arrested in the absence of identity cards. So, we preferred to stay in the forests'', Talha told interrogators. After six days, they were separated while trying to escape a cordon laid by police. Talha said he twice snatched food from two Gujjar women to feed himself. He couldn’t say as to how his other associate (Mohd Idnan) survived but, police said, Idnan was a trained commando and could have survived on eating grass and some tablets as his movement was not noticed by the local Gujjars. Abu Talha had approached a Gujjar youth, gave him Rs 50 and asked him to bring some food and biscuits for him on August 1 morning. The Gujjar youth acted tactfully and assured the terrorist that he would bring food for him. In turn, he sounded police but as the ill luck would have it, the things went wrong and police suffered two fatal casualties and failed to kill the terrorist. While Mohd Idnan was killed on August 2, Abu Talha was arrested the next day. A Sub Inspector of police Ranbir Singh Thakur had also lost his life when Idnan was killed. SSP Jammu Farooq Khan had survived miraculously in the operation when Idnan was killed. Police quoting Talha said that two senior police officers thrice came very close to his range but he didn’t fire on them to prevent retaliatory action. Abu Talha’s interrogation revealed that he was influenced by Abu Abdullah, a ‘recruiting agent’ of LeT in Marhal Chak, Multan when he was 15 and was studying in eighth class. As usual, he was told by LeT that Muslims were in danger in India and he had to take revenge of Babri Mosque demolition by killing Hindus. He was trained in three training camps namely Al Kamar, Abdullah and Zul Kanain in Muzafarrabad area of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) for more than one year. During the training, he was picked by LeT’s camp chief Abu Wakar as a fidayeen. Presently, 17 and a half years old, Abu Talha had sneaked into Poonch from Mankot nullah on the Line of Control (LoC) about two and a half month back. He had reached Phagla village in Surankote about 20 days before the carnage, where he was joined by another fidayeen Mohd Idnan alias Abu Idnan alias Abu Dujana. Meanwhile, police have acknowledged the role played by the local Gujjars as well as a number of police constables, who spent days and nights in the forests posing themselves as Gujjars. ''Without active help of Gujjars, it wouldn’t have been possible for police to get the terrorists'', police said, adding they have decided to publicly honour five Gujjars in a function shortly where they would be given a handsome cash reward. Since all five Gujjars were old, they couldn’t be recruited in police. Several police constables spent more than two weeks in Raika forests posing as Gujjars and grazing cattle. ''At one point of time, a Gujjar saw both the terrorists while grazing the cattle and as per the strategy shouted ‘aayo, aayo, aayo (come, come, come)’. However, the cops in plainclothes, who were following the Gujjar, didn’t listen the coded message and lost a chance to kill the terrorists'', the sources said. They said the same Gujjar was intercepted by the terrorists and asked ‘whether he has ever seen an ultra’. ‘No’, the frightened Gujjar responded. The terrorists asked him as to why he was shouting ‘aayo, aayo, aayo’. The Gujjar said he was signalling the cattle to follow him. The terrorists left the Gujjar to go after telling him that they were policemen and searching the ultras. By the time, the Gujjar could contact police, the duo had escaped.