For the first time after the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, Indian security forces Wednesday captured a Pakistani terrorist alive shortly after he, along with another militant, killed two BSF troopers in an ambush in Jammu and Kashmir, agencies report.
Police officials said the young terrorist, Mohammad Naved of Ghulam Mohammadabad in Pakistan, is linked to either Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group which carried out the horrific 2008 Mumbai terror attack, or Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), another terror group.
As Naved, wearing a black shirt and brown trousers and bound by ropes, was brought down from the mountainous Chirdi village, he looked hassled but put on a brave smile.
A short while later, security personnel hooded his face.
The dramatic developments took place after two militants, wearing army fatigues, attacked a Border Security Force convoy on the Jammu-Srinagar highway in Udhampur district, killing two troopers and injuring 11. The incident happened around 7.30 am at Narsu Nallah, 65 km from Jammu.
One of the militants, Noman alias Nomi of Bahawalpur in Pakistan, was shot dead by the BSF personnel who were on their way to the Kashmir Valley. The second attacker Naved fled towards Chirdi village in the hills, pursued by security forces.
In Chirdi, he took three villagers hostage and asked them to take him to a safer place where nobody could spot him. The hostages seized this golden chance and misled him.
“He kept me on gun point,” said Rakesh Kumar, one of the villagers taken hostage.
Naved, who hardly had eaten anything for the past three days, stopped on the way for food.
“The terrorist was hungry, so we stopped. Then we got together and forced him to the ground and disarmed him,” said another hostage Vikramjit Singh.
“Once he saw the police was coming, he threatened us. But Rakesh grabbed him by the neck and I held on to his gun,” Vikramjit added.
Finding himself overpowered, Naved began to helplessly plead: “Mujhe mat pakdo, mujhe mat pakdo!” (Don’t catch me, don’t catch me.)
‘I came to kill Hindus’
Soon after his capture, Naved told the media and curious villagers gathered around him: “Yes, I came to kill Hindus …. It’s fun doing this.”
When informed about Noman’s death, he said: “Had I been killed, it would have been Allah’s doing.”
Naved said he, along with Noman and two others, had infiltrated into India through the Kupwara-Baramulla sector 12 days ago. To avoid public attention, they traveled in trucks to Tanmarg and Kulgam where they split.
On Tuesday, Naved and Noman arrived at Patnitop where they spent the night. Early Wednesday, they came to Simroli in Udhampur. Naved positioned himself on an elevated point while Noman stood behind the bushes near the highway. They were lying in wait when a BSF bus pulled up. Noman took aim and two troopers were killed in a burst of gunfire before he himself fell to the ground in a hail of bullets. Naved, who was watching the scene, panicked and fled.
When reporters asked him about his age, Naved first said he was in his early 20s. Later he said he was only 16. He kept changing his statements. First he identified himself as Kasim, then as Mohammed and later as Usman.
A channel report said the home ministry had warned the Jammu and Kashmir government in May about a possible attack targeting Amarnath pilgrims on the same highway where the two Pakistani terrorists struck Wednesday.
The state government seems to have ignored that warning.
A top BSF officer in Delhi said search operations are under way to know if more militants are holed up in Udhampur.
Wednesday’s attack took place on the 300-km highway that links Jammu region with the Kashmir Valley and is practically a lifeline for Srinagar.
The last attack on this stretch of highway took place in 2000 when a bridge guarded by the BSF in Ramban district was targeted. But no casualty or damage occurred.
‘Reward Chirdi’s brave villagers’
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed condemned the militant attack in Udhampur and prayed for the speedy recovery of those injured. He conveyed his heart-felt sympathies to the bereaved families and prayed for peace to the departed souls.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said the latest attack was a “worrying development because (the) area was militant-free” for a long time.
He also said the credit for catching Naved should go to Chirdi villagers.
“Very brave of the unarmed civilians to wrestle and disarm an armed terrorist. They should be suitably rewarded for this bravery,” Omar said on his widely followed Twitter handle.
“Very unfortunate that the credit is not going where it is due — to those three unarmed villagers who captured him,” Omar said in another comment.
His father and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah urged New Delhi to call off the proposed the talks between the National Security Advisers of India and Pakistan.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said the militant attack was “extremely worrying” because it followed the July 27 terrorist attack at a town in Gurdaspur district in Punjab that left seven people dead. Gurdaspur borders Pakistan, and those attackers were also said to be Pakistanis.
India positive on NSA-level talks
India will go ahead with the NSA-level talks with Pakistan despite the terror strike in Jammu and Kashmir.
“We are still awaiting a response from Islamabad to our proposal to hold the talks between the two NSAs on August 23-24 here,” official sources said.
The recent terror strike in Gurdaspur and Wednesday’s incident in Udhampur had triggered speculation that India may call off the upcoming talks.