Security forces on lookout for top LeT commanders

Security forces on lookout for top LeT commanders

16 July 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Fayaz Bukhari

Srinagar: Security forces have launched a massive man hunt against Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) commanders in South Kashmir after a series of attacks early this month in which an Army jawan and two police constables were killed. On top of their list of the renewed hunt after recent militant strikes is the Divisional Commander of LeT for South Kashmir, Mohammad Qasim, who is a Pakistani militant and has taken over charge of South Kashmir after the killing of Abdul Rehman alias Rehman Bhai last year in October. Mohammad Qasim shifted his base from Dacchigam area in the outskirts of Srinagar to South Kashmir soon after the killing of Rehman Bhai to become divisional commander of LeT for South Kashmir. Mohammad Qasim is a Pakistani national and has reportedly infiltrated into Kashmir valley in 2010. He lied low and was hiding in the Dacchigam forests for almost 18 months. He was preferred over Sajjad who was to replace Rehman Bhai as the Divisional Commander of the LeT for his foreign origin. Another LeT man and a local trained commander who is being hunted is Bilal Ahmad Bhat of Lalhar in district Pulwama. Security agencies said that he is responsible for the attack in Pampore on July 7 in which an Army personnel was shot dead and another injured while one rifle was also snatched from the dead jawan in a broad day light shoot out on high security national highway. He is also thought to be involved in cop killing in Pulwama town early this month. Bilal, though being very young is thought to be more active and as per security agencies more ruthless and daring. He has come under security agency radar two years ago and was lured into LeT by Rehman Bhai. He is a local trained militant and has worked with former LeT commander Rehman Bhai and is thought to have learned the operational skills from him. Security agencies said that Mohammad Qasim, the LeT divisional commander is new to the area and modules created by Rehman Bhai are actually active in South Kashmir. Mohammad Qasim is believed to be operating in the Chadoora area of Budgam and Pulwama and Pampore areas where security presence is thin. Rehman Bhai, a Pakistani National was killed in Pulwama on October 3 last year. He survived for over a decade and was operating in Kashmir valley since 2005. He mostly operated in Sopore in North Kashmir and remained active in Pulwama between 2007 and 2011. Security agencies said that being experienced commander, he created a lot of militant modules in South Kashmir who are still active and were and are even carrying attacks in Srinagar city. Security agencies have inputs that the LeT commander Bilal Bhat is mostly operating in the outskirts of Srinagar city in Nowgam area to Pulwama town outskirts as this area has least presence of security forces. After the Pampore attack, security forces have conducted massive operations in Pulwama area of South Kashmir. Surprise raids have been conducted while patrolling is being conducted in Puhru, Kenihama, Khanda, Gouharpora, Chuntsu, Wagoora, Soot, Ganipora villages in Chadoora area of central Kashmir district of Budgam. The security patrolling has also been intensified in Pampora, Letpora, Kakpora, Sombre, Lalhar, Newa in areas of South Kashmir district of Pulwama and searches are also being conducted. After the attacks in Pulwama town in which one police personnel was killed and in Yatripore in South Kashmir district of Kulgam in which a rifle was snatched from a police constable after he was killed, the security forces have erected barricades at the entry and exit points of Pulwama and Shopian towns. Majority of the vehicles coming out and going inside these towns are being searched by the police as the security agencies feel that militants are using the main roads for travelling from one place to the other. Night patrol along Srinagar-Shopian road has also been intensified. Security agencies said that with easy accessibility in Kashmir valley it becomes easy for militants based in South Kashmir target Srinagar. Security patrols on the national highway from Jawahar Tunnel to Pantha Chowk and villages along both the sides of national highway have also been intensified to ensure the safety of Amarnath yatris and tourists travelling on the highway. As the security agencies are focusing more on Budgam and Pulwama villages where Qasim and Bilal Bhat were operating, the top security officials believed that they may have fled the area due to combing operations launched by security forces after Pulwama cop killing and Pampore attack on Army.