For nearly eight hours after the Indian Army and Jammu and Kashmir Police launched a cordon around a single-storey house in which Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander Abu Dujana was trapped on Tuesday, they didn’t fire a single shot. They wanted Dujana and his associate — Arif Lelhari — to surrender, but the duo did not. Armed forces personnel called the militants asking them to lay down the arms — an announcement was also made from a nearby mosque — but that didn’t convince the longest surviving Pakistani militant to give up his weapons.
He wanted to die as a ‘martyr’.
Dujana had come to the house of Khurshid Ahmad Bhat at around 10:30 pm on Monday. Bhat is a former army man who had given up arms and was allegedly innvolved in a mine blast case in Srinagar. But so specific was the intelligence input about his presence in the house that it was cordoned in nearly 15 minutes. A local army camp, which lies only few kilometers away from the encounter site, had sent in troops who were assisted by police and paramiltary force personnel to take part in the operation which has been described as a “major success by the government”.
Bhat said that Dujana had been visiting his family often and he was accompanied with a resident of a nearby Gundura area of Pulwama, Mohammad Yusuf Lone. Lone’s body was recovered from a nearby stream riddled with bullets on 18 May. His family members, however, alleged that he was killed by Dujana. But local residents, who requested anonymity, said that he may have been killed for being an informant to the police. Inspector General of Police, Kashmir range, Muneer Khan, said that Yusuf Lone associated with Dujana and was “killed by his own men.”
Dujana had visited Bhat at least thrice and had even given forces a slip in the same area (as the encounter on Tuesday) earlier on the eve of Ramazan. Monday evening’s visit was Dujana’s last. Security forces had evacuated locals who lived around the area in the early hours of Tuesday, but they moved Bhat’s family only by 7:30 on Tuesday morning.
Bhat said that officials called on the phone of one of the militants asking them to surrender. “We tried asking them to surrender. They had a pistol, an AK-47 rifle and a bag which probably had ammunitions,” he said. Bhat’s younger brother, Mohammad Hussain Bhat, who works as a landscaper in floriculture department of government, said that Dujana told them he wanted to die as a “martyr.”
By the time armed forces cordoned the area and were asking Dujana to surrender, they had evacuated the area. By the time locals started flocking to the encounter site, a huge deployment of security personnel were already on a standby. From nearby homes, they took vantage positions and all entry points to the village of Hakripora were sealed. Ghulam Ahmad Dar, a relative of Bhat’s, said that after he heard of the cordon, he was allowed to enter Hakripora from a nearby area of Talengam in Pulwama but only after 12.30 pm — Dujana and his associate were already dead by then.
Bashir Ahmad Mir, who lived in the neighbourhood of the house where Dujana was trapped, said that they were moved out of the house at around 3 am. “We saw lights go out, but heard gunshots even as we were taken to another location,” he said. “There was a huge deployment of Army and police personnel and they were making repeated announcements from the mosque asking Dujana to surrrender,” he said.
However, when the call for surrender didn’t work, a firefight ensued between militants and the forces till the house was blasted off. “They possibly carried a mine blast or a mortar shelling and then burnt the house,” said local residents.
The house remained in rubble, its walls damaged and ceilings broken as people, who wanted to take Dujana’s body for funeral. Abu Dujana was laid to rest at Baramulla.
Article was first published on FP