New Delhi: Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist Shahid Latif, believed to be the mastermind of the 2016 attack on an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, was gunned down on Wednesday by unidentified assailants in a mosque in Daska town of Pakistan’s Sialkot district, officials said. Latif, alias Bilal, a designated terrorist under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, is learnt to have been shot dead along with two of his associates by three gunmen.
He had infiltrated into the Kashmir Valley in 1993 and was arrested a year later. He was in Jammu jail with Masood Azhar, founder of the JeM, till 2010, officials said.
He was deported to Pakistan in 2010 following his release and formally joined the terror group, they said.
Latif alias Bilal alias Noor Al Din, a designated terrorist under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, was the launching commander of the Jaish-e-Mohammed in Sailkot and had been involved in planning, facilitation and execution of terror attacks in India.
The officials said that Latif had entered into Kashmir in 1993 from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as a cadre of the banned Hakar-ul-Ansar terror group. However, he was arrested a year later and sent the Kol Balwal jail in Jammu.
It is believed that he was brainwashed further by Masood Azhar, who was also lodged in that jail till he was set free in 1989 in exchange for the passengers of IC-814, an Indian Airlines plane that was hijacked by terrorists and taken to Kandahar.
After spending 16 years in Indian jail, he was deported through the Attari-Wagah border in 2010 and is believed to have got in touch again with Azhar, who had by that time formed the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group.
“This is the biggest blow to JeM on Pakistan soil,” an official said.
Latif, a resident of Aminabad in Punjab’s Gujranwala, was wanted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Seven IAF personnel were killed when four JeM terrorists sneaked into the Pathankot Air Force Station on January 2, 2016. The siege went on for three days.