Nearly a month after the deadly fidayeen attack on the Sunjuwan Military station (on February 10) in which six soldiers were killed, the purported brain behind the attack has been gunned down by the army. Mufti Waqas, the operational commander of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) was killed on Monday (March 5) in a joint ‘surgical operation’ by the army, CRPF and the Jammu and Kashmir police in the Awantipora area of South Kashmir. As per a report by The Indian Express, an operation was launched to catch Waqas after the army received ‘specific information’ on his whereabouts. Waqas was alone in the area and there were no civilian casualties during the whole operation.
In a statement, the Army has called the elimination of Waqas as a major dent to the JeM as the terror outfit’s previous operational commander Noor Mohammad Tantrey was also slain by the army in December last year. Two commanders being killed in quick succession is a big blow to the Maulana Masood Azhar-led outfit, as per the Army. Going by the J&K police statement, Waqas alias Abu Arsalan fired on the search party and was killed when the joint forces retaliated. A weapon and “war-like stores and other incriminating material” were also recovered from his possession, according to the police statement.
Waqas, a Pakistani national, had been pretty active, especially in South Kashmir, as per the report and was also the mastermind behind many militant attacks including fidayeen attacks at Lethpora (December 31, 2017), Pulwama (August 27, 2017) and the attack on 182 battalion of the Border Security Force (BSF) outside Srinagar airport (October 3, 2017). Police sources confirmed to The Indian Express that Waqas was a member of the ‘inner circle’ of JeM and was very close to Masood Azhar. Even Azhar’s nephew Talha Rashid operated under the command of Waqas. The police were in search of him for the past six months.
For those unaware of the Sunjuwan Military station attack, three heavily armed Jaish-e-Mohammad militants entered the Army camp in Jammu on February 10. They hurled grenades and used automatic gunfire on the army men. During army’s retaliation, the three militants, who were later found to be Pakistani nationals, were eliminated. However, the attack killed seven including six soldiers and one civilian.