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Killing of Yusuf Kantroo, Kashmir longest surviving terrorist bolsters morale among security forces

Let Commander Yousuf Kantroo

In a major achievement for the Jammu and Kashmir Police and security forces, the longest surviving and the most dreaded Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) commander, Mohammad Yusuf Kantroo, has been killed in a fierce gunbattle in which a group of seven terrorists got trapped on the border of Baramulla and Budgam districts.

Kantroo’s killing serves as a morale booster to the security forces, imparting them with a psychological edge in the new phase of countering militancy in Kashmir.

Kantroo’s slaying has been followed up by another encounter. Two Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorists from Pakistan have been killed in an encounter with security forces in an area next to the sprawling Sunjwan military station in Jammu early Friday.

According to senior Police officials, the Budgam District Police developed specific information regarding the presence of Kantroo and six of his associates at a hideout in Malwa village in the area of Police Station Kunzar. The hideout had been established in a house on the forest hillock bordering Baramulla and Budgam districts in Central Kashmir.

In the wee hours on Thursday, troops swooped on the identified hideout. The holed-up militants opened fire and made repeated attempts to escape. Five personnel of Police and army sustained minor injuries. Kantroo, who had the history of escaping from cordoned areas, got killed in the beginning of the encounter. By the evening, two more of his associates died.

The Police and army made sustained attempts to get a 17-year-old fresh recruit Faisal Hafeez Dar of Aripanthan out of the encounter site unharmed but did not succeed till late on Thursday. They managed to establish contact on telephone with one holed up militant, namely Hilal, who revealed that seven militants, including two foreign terrorists, had got trapped. Faisal’s mother and other family members were seen crying loudly that “scoundrels and pickpockets” had waylaid the ‘innocent boy’.

“Three terrorists have died and three more plus the teenager are still holed up. We have stopped the firing for the night. If they try to escape, we will open fire. But our priority is to get Faisal out unharmed. He wants to come out but the terrorists are not allowing him to escape”, said an officer from the site of the encounter.

According to Police, Kantroo, a resident of Budgam’s Chak Kawoosa village, had joined militancy as an over-ground worker (OGW) of Hizbul Mujahideen around 20 years back. Residents said that his father, also an OGW with HM, had died in custody at Magam Police Station and his brother was appointed in Police. Kantroo was arrested in 2005 but released on bail in 2008.

Subsequently in 2017, Kantroo returned to his militant fold and started killing innocent civilians, policemen and political workers. Later he joined the LeT. In the LeT, he handled everything from receiving the infiltrating militants in Babarishi area of Gulmarg and fanning them in Srinagar, Budgam, Pulwama, Kulgam, Shopian and Anantnag districts. He also planned and executed civilian killings and attacks on security forces. He escaped from cordon-and-search operations at Palhalan, Chewdara and six other places. His role was significant in recruitment of the fresh cadres.

According to the Police records, Kantroo was involved in dozens of civilian killings and attacks on the Police and security forces and he was booked in over a dozen FIRs.

In recent times he had shot dead Bhupinder Singh, Chairman of Block Development Council Khag on 23 September 2020. On 7 March 2022, Kantroo and his associates kidnapped and killed the Territorial Army soldier Sameer Ahmad Malla at Khag. His body was found buried in a ditch on 10 March. On 21 March 2022, Kantroo shot dead a local army helper Tajamul Mohiuddin Dar at his home in Gotapora, Budgam. On 15 April 2022, Kantroo shot dead Sarpanch Manzoor Ahmad Bangroo in an orchard at Goshbug, Pattan.

Also Read: How militants misused Ramzan ceasefires to regroup and kill innocents

On 26 March 2022, Kantroo and his associates shot dead SPO Mohammad Ishfaq Dar and his brother Umar Dar at Chattabug, Budgam. He was also involved in the killing of a National Conference Block President at Natipora Srinagar, killing of Gulzar Ahmad of Lawaypora at Narbal, killing of Tanveer Zargar of Chewa at Narbal, killing of Nazir Ahmad Dar of Warihama at Warihama.

Kantroo was also wanted for killing CRPF head constable Riyaz Ahmad Rather of Nowgam Anantnag in a grenade attack at Kanihama on 23 December 2017, abduction and killing of Constable Mohammad Ashraf Rather of Archanderhama Magam, killing of SPO Mohammad Altaf during an encounter at Peth-Zanigam and killing of ex-SPO Naseer Ahmad Khan of Buchipora Kawoosa Khalisa.

Moreover, he was also involved in looting 4 AK rifles from the residence of ex-MLC of Congress Muzafar Parray at Government Quarters Jawahar Nagar, Srinagar, on 30 December 2018. According to the Police records, Kantroo’s terror associate Nadeem Abrar killed 3 CRPF personnel in an attack on his direction on the highway at Lawaypora Srinagar on 25 March 2021. Later, Nadeem Abrar was killed along with a Pakistani terrorist in an encounter at Maloora, Shalteng, on 29 June 2021.

Also Read: How militants ruled Srinagar jail till 2018