Srinagar: In a major operation, Jammu and Kashmir Police on Wednesday gunned down a top Lashkar-e-Taiba militant who was responsible for attacking a leading apple trader’s family in which a girl child had also been injured. Some policemen were also injured in the exchange of fire but are said to be out of danger.

Asif Maqbool Bhat was killed in a brief shootout with the police and security forces in Sopore around 9 am.

“When we intercepted Bhat today (Wednesday), he attacked us. He threw a grenade at us. A few police personnel were injured but they are out of danger. In the ensuing encounter, the militant was neutralised,” Director General of Police Dilbag Singh said in a press briefing.

He said Bhat had attacked the family of Haji Hamidullah Rather, a prominent fruit grower of Sopore and a resident of Dangerpora area, on September 8.

“The militant fired at the family members of Rather, injuring four of them including a girl aged between four and seven years. The girl is admitted here in a hospital. Other members of the family were also evacuated from that place.”

The girl was Rather’s daughter Asma.

Bhat, and his associates, had also shot and injured a migrant labourer, identified as Shafi Alam, the same day, the DGP added.

“The injured boy has been brought to a Srinagar hospital. I am told that his condition is fine and he is likely to be discharge any moment.”

Bhat was also responsible for making use of over ground workers (OGWs) to print and publish posters threatening people to stay away from the fruit business, not to open shops and refrain from normal day-to-day activities, he said.

“We were watching those activities. We were after these people who are involved in this. Eight people who are indulging in this kind of activities were apprehended by Sopore police along with the computers and other equipment they were using for printing those threatening letters and pasting them at various locations.”

Grenade attack

The DGP said that Bhat, along with two other fellow militants Sajjad and Mudassar, was very active in the area over the last one month and had created a lot of terror.

“They were roaming around in villages, going to the people and threatening them, telling them not to go for daily chores… So we were tracking him.”

On a specific input, police, along with other security forces, laid some “nakas” (checkpoints) close to Sopore town, the DGP said, adding Bhat was challenged to stop when he came.

“Bhat, however, did not stop and threw a grenade on our party in which couple of our police personnel were injured but they are out of danger. He was later neutralised in the encounter.

“With the killing of Bhat, I believe that the area will heave a sigh of relief. The terror which he was creating there would be taken care of to some extent. We also know his other two associates and we are after them. We will see it in the near future. We will take care of them,” he said.

The elimination of the top LeT member comes two days after the police, along with the army and other security forces including the Central Reserve Police Force, busted a terror module of the LeT in the Sopore area with the arrest of eight militants.

Sopore’s Senior Superintendent of Police Javaid Iqbal said the men had hatched a conspiracy to print posters threatening locals from venturing out of their homes, either for trade, travel, schools or office. They used to distribute these posters in local villages.