Abu Ismael, who had been leading Lashker-e-Taiba operations in the Kashmir valley over past 6-7 months, was planning a fidayeen attack on a security camp on the outskirts of Srinagar when J&K police caught up with him.
A few days back, J&K police got track of Ismael, a top A++ category foreign terrorist who they had been trying to lay hands on since he masterminded the attack on Amarnath pilgrims. Tipped off by a source, the J&K police trailed Ismael over the past few days and finally cornered him in Nowgam.
With his neutralisation, the total count of terrorists killed in J&K so far this year has risen to 147 as against 150 in 2016.
Ismael took charge of LeT operations in the valley almost 6-7 months back, well before Abu Dujana was killed. In fact, he replaced Dujana after the latter was ousted from Lashker-e Taiba over his refusal to be part of the Pampore attack and over distribution of loot from a March 2017 robbery.
Ismael’s area of operation was essentially from Kulgam to Srinagar, an intelligence source said. “Last information we had was that he was planning a fidayeen attack on the outskirts of Srinagar,” said an officer .
J&K police, along with CRPF and Army, has managed to neutralise many top commanders of Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashker since July 2016.
Burhan Wani, who assumed charge of Hizbul in 2014, was eliminated in an encounter on July 8, 2016. Forces have since been hot on his successor Zakir Musa’s trail. Sabzar Ahmed Bhat took over the Hizbul reins in May 2017 after Musa quit Hizbul, but was killed within a week. His successor Yasin Itoo was killed in an encounter on August 13.
“The emphasis is to create a vacuum in top echelons of the terror outfit by not allowing its seniormost commander enough time to get a grip on its operations,” said an officer.
The central agencies credit “good human intelligence” generated by J&K police for the high rate of terrorist killings. “J&K police always had good ground intelligence but were earlier tied up in controlling local protests including stone-pelting. With the mob violence having ebbed, they are now using this intelligence for counter-terror operations,” he said.
In the past few months, many operations were undertaken based on technical intelligence generated by central agencies and ground intelligence by J&K police. However, after phone surveillance led to the elimination of many terrorists, a directive from top commanders asking cadres to junk their phones dried up the technical trail. “It is now essentially human intelligence by J&K police that is helping us,” said an intelligence operative.