Srinagar: A Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist, who was involved in the abduction and murder of army officer Lieutenant Umar Fayaz in 2017, was killed in a gunfight with security forces in Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian district on Friday, police said.
The slain terrorist was identified as Bilal Ahmed Bhat, a resident of Chek Cholan village in Shopian, who had joined the banned terror outfit LeT after being an active associate of terrorists for some time, police said.
According to a police spokesperson, security forces received a tip-off about the presence of terrorists in the Chhotigam area of Shopian district, which falls under the jurisdiction of Zainapora police station, around 4 am on Friday. The security forces, comprising personnel of the army, police and CRPF, cordoned off the area and launched a search operation.
As the security forces were conducting the search operation, the terrorists hiding in a house opened fire at them, triggering a fierce encounter. The security forces retaliated and engaged the terrorists in a gun battle that lasted for about two hours, the spokesperson said.
In the exchange of fire, Bhat was killed and his body was recovered from the encounter site along with one AK series rifle, three magazines, and other arms and ammunition. No collateral damage was reported in the operation, the spokesperson said.
Bhat was one of the main accused in the murder of Lieutenant Umar Fayaz, a 22-year-old army officer of 2 Rajputana Rifles, who was kidnapped and killed by terrorists in May 2017. Lieutenant Fayaz, a resident of Sudsan village in Kulgam district, was attending his cousin’s wedding in Batapura village in the Shopian district when he was abducted by a group of terrorists. His bullet-riddled body was found the next day in the Herman area of Shopian.
Shopian Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Tanushree told PTI that Bhat’s name was mentioned in the FIR registered in connection with the murder of Lieutenant Fayaz. “He (Bhat) was an OGW (over-ground worker) of terrorists at that time and his name was in the FIR. He later became a terrorist and joined LeT,” he said.
Bhat was also involved in several other terror-related incidents, including the grenade attack on non-local laborers in the Harman area of Shopian in October 2023, in which two laborers were killed and four others were injured. He was also behind the killing of a Kashmiri Pandit, Sunil Kumar Bhat, and the injuring of another Kashmiri Pandit, Pritimbar Nath, who was a resident of Chhotigam village in Shopian. He had also attacked a local resident, Bal Krishna alias Sonu, in the same village.
Bhat was also accused of instigating and recruiting local youth to join terrorism. Police said he had radicalized and recruited 12 local youths into LeT in the past few years. He was also involved in the killing of a captured terrorist, who was leading a search party of security forces during a cordon and search operation in the Nowgam area of Shopian in June 2022, police said.
The police spokesperson said that Bhat was a “notorious terrorist” who was wanted in several cases and his killing was a “major success” for the security forces. He said that the police had registered a case and initiated an investigation into the encounter. He also appealed to the people to cooperate with the police and refrain from visiting the encounter site until it is sanitized and cleared of explosives.