Jammu, Jan 25: The chief commander of banned militant outfit Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami (HuJI) and alleged mastermind of Uttar Pradesh serial blasts, Bashir Ahmed alias Sabah Hijaji was shot dead today by security forces in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir, Defence spokesman said.
''The self-styled HuJI commander, who had taken refuge in a house at Dolgam in Chhatroo area of the Kishtwar, was tracked down and killed by the 11 Rashtriya Rifles(DOGRA) and STF troops in the night,'' Defence Ministry spokesman Lt Col S D Goswami told to the sources. A satellite phone, a wireless set and AK rifles were recovered from the site of encounter, sources said.
Security forces were looking for the HuJI chief after his name surfaced during the interrogation of militants arrested in connection with the UP serial blasts. The hunt was further intensified after Sabah threatened to kill the Assistant Superintendent of Police and 9 Sector commander of Rashtriya Rifles' Delta Force in Kishtwar.
Born in the Anantnag district of Kashmir, Sabah had joined militancy in 1992 and was involved in several terrorist activities in Kashmir as well as in the country.
''The HuJi commander was the brain behind the UP serial blasts in three court premises in November last year. Over dozen people were killed in the explosions,'' Lt Col Goswami said, asserting that police were also probing Sabah's role in the twin Hyderabad blasts.
Sabah had joined Harkat-ul-Ansar in 1992 and received training in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir(PoK). He was a specialist in handling and making of improvised explosive devices(IEDs) and jungle warfare.
From 1995-98, Sabah was a instructor of the Gair Training Camp in North-West Frontier Province where he trained Afghan militants. Thereafter, he was made in-charge of a militant training camp in PoK.
After Sabah moved back to Jammu and Kashmir in 1998-99, he was looking after the recruitment of new cadres from Anantnag in the valley.
He was later arrested from Karpan in 2000 but was set free in 2002. ''The militant was released when the Public Safety Act(PSA) was quashed,'' the spokesman said.
Immediately after his release, Sabah joined the HuJI and became the chief of the outfit in Jammu and Kashmir.
With the elimination of Sabah, the HuJI outfit, many of whose cadres have surrendered before security forces, has virtually been reduced to negligible in numbers.
Following the surrender of HuJI's top commander Sher Khan in Kashmir last year and thereafter killing of another district commander, Danish by his own cadres in Doda district, there is no known face left in the outfit to lead it in J&K. ''Only two to four HuJI militants are left now, that also in Kishtwar only. There is no one left in entire Doda district which used to be the hub of the outfit,'' intelligence sources told to the sources.