Srinagar: Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist Naveed Jhutt, who was wanted in connection with the assassination of journalist Shujaat Bukhari and had escaped from custody in February, was killed in an encounter in Jammu and Kashmir’s Budgam district on Wednesday, officials said.
Three army personnel were injured in the encounter that claimed the life of “most wanted” Jhutt, they said.
“As per ground verification, the chief commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba in the valley (Naveed Jhutt) has been killed in the operation at Budgam which started last night and ended this morning,” Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbagh Singh told reporters here.
He said Jhutt’s killing, along with one of his associates, was a big success for the security forces.
“You have seen recently in south Kashmir, youths were picked up on various pretexts, branding them as informers, and shot dead or slaughtered,” the DGP said.
“There were bank robberies and police personnel were targeted. People must have heaved a sigh of relief at his killing,” he said.
Singh said Jhutt, who had escaped from SMHS hospital, where he was taken for a medical examination, after killing two cops, was a “dreaded terrorist”.
He also played an important role in motivating many people to join militancy, the officer said.
Singh said it was extremely difficult to track down Jhutt as he had escaped from the security forces’ clutches more than once in the past.
“Even today, there were rumours that he has managed to escape but this time he was not lucky,” he said.
Asked about Jhutt’s involvement in Bukhari’s killing in June this year, Singh said the LeT commander was one of the suspects in the case.
“Such evidence about the involvement of the militant can be corroborated if you catch him alive. But it was difficult to catch him alive,” he said.
“If he had been caught alive, we would have perhaps got more leads to corroborate as to what kind of involvement he had. Now we can say that the prime suspect has been neutralised,” he added.
Singh said people’s cooperation of the people with security forces in the wake of terrorists targeting civilians and police personnel has led to the elimination of nearly two dozen terrorists in the past week.
Jhutt and his associates were killed in a gun battle that broke out after security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Budgam following information about the presence of militants there, a police official said.
The militants opened fire at the security personnel carrying out searches and the forces retaliated, he said.
Internet services in Budgam have been snapped as a precautionary measure.