Naveed Jatt’s death and the fall of Lashkar in south Kashmir

On November 28, Lashkar-e-Toiba militant Naveed Jatt was killed in a gunfight with forces in Budgam district, bringing to end one of militancy’s interesting chapters.

Born in Pakistan, Jatt, 22, had crossed over to Kashmir in 2012 and was, according to the police, involved in many attacks on the forces including the one on an army convoy in Hyderpora area of Srinagar, three attacks on the police and CRPF camps in southern Kashmir. Jatt was arrested in Kulgam district in 2014.

However, in February this year, he was taken to Srinagar’s SMHS Hospital from the Central Jail in the city for health check. Minutes after he arrived, two militants already present in the hospital, shot and killed the two policemen who escorted Jatt and sped away on a motorcycle with the young commander.

This was one of the most dramatic escapes in Kashmir in the recent past. Jatt soon took over the command of Lashkar, which was facing a leadership crisis after most of its commanders were killed in the aftermath of the army’s “Operation All Out” aimed at “wiping out militancy from the Valley”.

The outfit had, within a short span, lost two of its top Pakistani commanders who had been active for almost five years—Abu Dujana and Abu Ismail, both close aides of Abu Qasim who was believed to be instrumental in reviving militancy and Lashkar in south before he was killed in October 2015.

So the outfit was “looking for a foreign leadership and therefore Jatt’s escape was planned”, according to the police. Jatt could not only plan and execute deadly attacks on forces, but was also a known cordon breaker who frequently changed his locations, a police officer said.

Soon, Jatt, along with the last surviving local commanders of LeT—Showkat Tak, Shakoor Dar, Azad Malik alias Dada and Firdous Mir–operated in southern Kashmir, the epicenter of new-age militancy, and tried to once again strengthen its network.

However, the outfit suffered with another severe blow as two of its main operators, Tak and Dar, were killed in encounters this summer. Mehraj Bangroo, a re-cycled militant and another top LeT commander who was instrumental in reviving militancy in Srinagar to an extent, lost three of his associates before being killed near his home in Downtown. This left Jatt, Malik and Mir with a herculean task of leading an inexperienced lot, the police say. “The recruitment was not an issue for the outfit in southern Kashmir, but it was virtually leaderless now and the duo was focused more on the survival aspect,” another police official said, requesting anonymity. He said the outfit worked in close coordination with Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and tried to “reinforce its strong image before security agencies”.

“The pictures of Lashkar militants holding sophisticated weapons that went viral on social media time and again were aimed at conveying a message that the outfit was strong as ever,” the official said.

He said one such picture of Azad Dada, who was seen armed with a sniper rifle, was “a signal in this direction”. “Another picture where Jatt was seen walking with his associates in broad daylight near Mattan area of Anantnag, along the busy Khanabal-Pahalgam road, was also aimed at challenging the writ of the state authorities and winning a psychological battle,” the police official said.

-GK WEB DESK-

Comments are closed.