As per the reports published in Indian Express, Sabzar Ahmad Bhat who replaced Burhan Wani after later was killed, the slain Hizbul commander who routinely released his photographs in combat gear for social media, was no braveheart but a coward. Details emerging about the terrorist’s last moments point at his being more adept at shooting from a smartphone than the Kalashnikov on his shoulder.
Senior Army sources, privy to the operation in which Bhat was cornered and killed in Tral area of Kashmir’s Pulwama district last Saturday, told Mail Today that the 27-year-old terrorist remained in hiding for nearly 10 hours, without firing a single bullet at the troops.
Bhat also frantically sent text messages from his handset to gather a crowd of stone-pelters at the encounter site to provide him cover, the sources said.
HOW DID ARMY TRACK SABZAR
Security forces had tracked down Bhat’s location using technical intelligence provided to the troops on ground by the Jammu and Kashmir police cells. These units have been successful in nailing a large number of terrorists in recent years.
“The intelligence provided by the police confirmed that Sabzar and Faizan were in a cluster of houses in Saimoo village in Tral area and we laid a cordon on Friday evening around his house,” senior Army sources said. The raiding party included Army, Special Operations Groups and state police troops.
After laying the cordon, the troops tried to establish contact with Sabzar and his category A accomplice Faizan. There was no retaliation or firing from the terrorists in hiding as forces suspect the two did not want to give away their positions.
A large number of weapons including an AK-47 and INSAS assault rifles along with a huge cache of ammunition and other warlike stores, were recovered from the hideout after the operation was over.
After failing to establish contact with terrorists, the raiding team decided to “smoke out the rats” and called for fire tenders filled with petrol instead of water.
STONE PELTERS TO RESCUE?
Meanwhile, Bhat and his accomplice were trying to gather a crowd of stonepelters to be able to escape from the encounter location but the late hours did not get them much help. Sources said their messages betrayed desperation and fear.
“Petrol was poured inside the first house using hose pipes and it was set on fire but the two did not react. The result in the second house was also the same. But when the troops poured in petrol in the third house around 8:15 am, the two ran out of the house and tried to breach the cordon,” the sources said. Before Bhat could open fire, the troops fired a hail of bullets. Within a few seconds, the two “propagandist terrorists” were lying dead on the ground.
Army sources said Sabzar, a Class 7 dropout, was a known womaniser and drug addict at the time of his joining the Hizbul Mujahidden two years back. He replaced Burhan Wani who had been killed last year by the Army in South Kashmir.
Both the terrorists were tracked by technical intelligence sleuths and killed in similar brief encounters. Sources said in Burhan’s case too, the terrorist was trapped when the technical cells of Jammu and Kashmir police had followed a terrorist named Sartaj and did not know about Burhan’s presence there.
However, in Sabzar’s case, they were tracking him directly and were sure about his presence in the Tral area.
Sources said the recent crop of local terrorists is high on propaganda and try to conjure up a hero-like status by spreading their pictures on social media in full combat gear. “Little do they know that this act of theirs is of big help for security forces in identifying them and locating them,” the sources said.
As part of Pakistan’s strategy, local terrorists, who are not even trained formally into firing and combat tactics, are being used as cannon fodder to keep the militancy in J&K alive.