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How a ‘Meticulous Operation’ Got Amarnath Yatra Attack Planner, Abu Ismail, in Just 3 Minutes

Although Ismail is the eighth big commander to be eliminated this year, what made Thursday’s operation different was speed with which the security forces took him out.

Mufti Islah, Arunima

Updated:September 15, 2017, 11:22 AM IST
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How a ‘Meticulous Operation’ Got Amarnath Yatra Attack Planner, Abu Ismail, in Just 3 Minutes
Security personnel stand guard after a brief encounter with militants at Aaribagh Nowgam on the outskirts of Srinagar on Thursday. (PTI photo)
Srinagar: Only three minutes of firing and it was all over. Lashkar commander Abu Ismail, the mastermind of the Amarnath Yatra attack in July, and his associate Abu Qasim tried to run away on seeing the security forces but lay dead within minutes of a shootout in Nowgam on the outskirts of Srinagar.

“It was a crisp and meticulous operation. We had marked them well and they had no answer to our planning,” Kashmir’s Inspector General of police, Muneer Khan, told News18.

He attributed the swift and precise operation to the specific intelligence inputs received by the police. They were told about the pin-point location of Ismail, right down to the house where he was hiding.

Although Ismail is the eighth big commander to be eliminated this year, what made Thursday’s operation different was speed with which the security forces took him out.

Khan attributed this to “people’s prayers.” He said the exact details of Ismail’s whereabouts were known to the police because he had attacked the Amarnath Yatra and broken the unwritten rule that pilgrims are off-limits.

“Police enjoyed the goodwill of Kashmiris in this operation because every local here was praying for the end of the killers of the pilgrims. Kashmiris were angry when the militants killed Amarnath yatris two months ago," he said.

Referring to it as an “excellent operation”, a senior officer said inputs about Abu Ismail's presence in south Kashmir had been available to the forces since August. Police had formed special crack teams in almost all south Kashmir districts to go after him and the others wanted for the Amarnath attack.

But hostility towards security forces in the villages there had kept him safe for this long. Over the last few weeks, repeated attempts were made to draw him out.

“We knew it would be difficult to carry out an operation against him in south Kashmir’s villages. It was important to draw him out of his comfort zone. The last few operations in Kulgam and Pulwama were all aimed to make it difficult for him,” an officer aware of the operation told CNN-News18.

abu ismail
Left to right: Abu Ismail with his associate Abu Qasim and Abu Dujana’s close aide Arif Lelhari. All three are dead now. (Photo: Qayoom Khan)

A police officer based in south Kashmir told News18 that around a week ago, Ismail moved from south Kashmir to Srinagar. “We had him under surveillance. There was no way he could have escaped,” the officer said.

Police sources revealed that the duo could have been killed last week itself on the day home minister Rajnath Singh arrived in Kashmir. The operation, however, was aborted because no one in the government wanted bloodshed that day, they said.

“We were sure we will get them in quick time. In fact, they were never off our radar,” a police officer who was part of operation told News 18. Police were so confident about its intelligence - both human and technical - that they chose another day to eliminate the two.

That day was Thursday, when they received information that Ismail was hiding in a house in Aaribagh in Nowgam.

The joint team formed for the operation carefully surrounded the house and plugged any escape routes that Ismail may have kept for such a situation. To surprise the terrorists, the soldiers and policemen had arrived at the hideout in a tipper and not routine security vehicles.

They had made sure that it would not be a long-drawn out encounter, like several others have been in Kashmir.

Director General of CRPF, R Bhatnagar, said that although Ismail and Qasim had tried to fire at the security personnel, it was in vain. The two terrorists were shot dead and the security men came out unscathed.

With Ismail’s death, all but one foreign and one local militant involved in the attack on Amarnath pilgrims have been killed.
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