On Wednesday, sub-inspector Altaf Ahmad, considered among the best counterterrorism police officers in Jammu and Kashmir was killed in an encounter in Bandipore district, while chasing Kashmir’s most-wanted Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operational commander Abu Qasim.
Qasim, a Pakistani terrorist, was the mastermind behind the terror attack on a Border Security Force convoy in Udhampur on August 5 according to the National Intelligence Agency. Elusive Qasim is behind several high-profile militant attacks in the Valley since 2012, including the Hyderpora attack in 2013 that left eight Army personnel dead, attack on the Silver Star hotel in October 2012 and the attack on the BSF in Pampore in 2013.
Heading the Srinagar-based Special Investigation Team (SIT) for counter-insurgency, with 40 members reporting to him, Altaf had been tracking Qasim with a Rs. 20 lakh reward on his head for long. Mr. Ahmad had decided to carry out the operation on his own without laying any cordon, which counter-insurgency officials said “was a very casual approach.”
Police say Altaf, along with two colleagues, was on a covert mission in Bandipore to track down Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Abu Qasim. Before Altaf could reach the target, the terrorist hiding behind a passenger vehicle opened fire on him. He was critically injured and was immediately airlifted to Army’s 92 Base Hospital, where he was declared brought dead.
“We suspect it was a source trap,” said a top counter-insurgency official. The source was right about the location of Qasim, who was “already alert.” Mr. Ahmad gave chase to Qasim’s car near Gund Dachin area of Bandipora, 40 km from Srinagar. Sources said Qasim and other militants stopped Mr. Ahmad’s vehicle and opened fire.
Ahmad’s death has shocked the police and security agencies in Jammu and Kashmir.
According to the police, Altaf was the brain behind 33 % of the operations against militants. It was because of him many top Hizbul Mujahideen commanders, including Qazi Misbauddin, Hanief Khan and Muzaffar Dar, were killed. In 2012, Mr. Ahmad is believed to have played a key role in identifying Constable Abdul Rashid Shigan’s militant activities, which included 13 attacks across Srinagar, by tapping phones.