A top commander of Jaish-e-Mohammed Munna Bhai was killed on Saturday morning in an overnight gunfight with security forces in south Kashmir’s Shopian district. An associate of Munna Bhai, Zeenat-ul-Islam of Shopian, was also killed in the same operation.
Munna Lahori, also known as Chhota Burmi, was from Pakistan and is accused of plotting several IED attacks in the south Kashmir region along with Ismail, another Pakistani Jaish commander. They were not only responsible for several bomb blasts attacks in Jammu and Kashmir but also for training and extending logistical support to the local terrorists in south Kashmir, a senior police officer said. Jaish had also used him to brainwash youngsters in the Kashmir valley and recruit them to the terror group.
Police said Saturday’s huge success came after a cordon and search operation was launched by security forces in Banday Mohalla Bonbazar area of district Shopian. During the search operation that started late last evening, Munna Bhai and Zeenat-ul-Islam fired at the search party. “The fire was retaliated leading to encounter,” a police statement said. It continued all night.
Munna Bhai, 19, had crossed over to Kashmir from Pakistan last year and is reported to have led the terror group’s use of bombs in vehicles, a tactic that could let them carry out attacks without risking their lives. Security officials say he had turned into some sort of an expert in making explosives and fitting them in vehicles for maximum impact.
Top security officials said Munnai Bhai and Ismail, as part of Pakistan Intelligence agency ISI’s new strategy maintained a low profile and never indulged in direct attacks. This helped them stay under the radar.
A senior official recalled how central intelligence agencies had got the first tip-off about their presence in the Kashmir valley almost a year back but it took them several months to identify and locate them.
Security forces had stepped up the intensive search for Munna Bhai after intelligence officials linked a terror attack on a mobile patrol team of the Rashtriya Rifles to the Jaish commander on June 17.
Two soldiers were killed in this attack in Arihal of Pulwama, several others including civilians were hurt. The attack had taken place just about 30 km from the location where a suicide bomber had attacked a convoy of the Central Reserve Police Force in February this year.
Munna was also involved in vehicle bomb attack on a convoy of security forces on March 30 at Jammu and Kashmir’s Banihal.