The elimination of Lashkar-e-Taiba's (LeT) top leadership by security forces may have been a factor behind the outfit's desperate but successful bid to free Pakistani terrorist Naveed Jutt alias Abu Hanzala from police custody, a top police official said here on Thursday.
He also said the police exercised restraint at the time of the attack at the Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital as hitting back at the assailants could have led to civilian casualties.
"The LeT leadership was finished (in encounters). Earlier (Abu) Qasim, then (Abu) Dujana and (Abu) Ismail also. Lashkar had not designated its new commander for Kashmir. May be that is why they were so desperate to get Naveed freed," Additional Director General of Police Munir Ahmad Khan, who also holds charge as IGP Kashmir, told reporters.
All the terror outfits in Kashmir were operating in unison and there is no difference among them, he said.
"You have seen the photograph of Naveed after his escape and he has gone to a Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist (Saddam Padder). This vindicates my point that they are working together," he said.
The police official was referring to a photograph of Saddam Padder and Naveed Jutt which has surfaced after his escape from police custody at a hospital following a terror attack in which two cops escorting the Pakistani terrorists were killed.
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Police today presented four persons -- two ultras and two over ground workers -- before the media who were arrested for their alleged involvement in the conspiracy that led to Naveed Jutt's escape.
The arrested persons were identified as Shakeel Ahmad Bhat and Tika Khan while the OGWs were Syed Tajamul and Mohammad Shafi Wani.
Khan said that scientific evidence led the special investigation team of the police, constituted after the attack, to the involvement of five persons of which four have been arrested.
The fifth -- Hilal Ahmad Rather -- is at large, he said. One pistol each has been recovered from Shakeel Bhat and Tika Khan, he said.
Giving details of the February 6 incident at the SMHS hospital, Khan said that Hilal Rather, taking advantage of the heavy rush of patients and attendants in the casualty section, passed on a pistol to Naveed Jutt and both fired on the policemen who were escorting the terrorist.
Rather and Bhat had brought a car and a motorcycle as their means of getaway, he said. They preferred the motorcycle after the incident, he added.
"From the hospital, Naveed was dropped on the other side of Abdullah bridge (Rajbagh) and kept at a place and taken to Kakapora in Pulwama district later in the day. We have identified the place but we are not revealing it so as not to hamper the investigation," he said.
Khan said the conspiracy to free Naveed Jutt from police custody was hatched four months ago but did not succeed in the first attempt.
"The initial plan was to take him from Pulwama court but they did not succeed. They formed the second plan, and as part of it Hilal and Tika Khan visited the central jail several times on one pretext or the other," he said.
The ADGP said Naveed Jutt and his facilitators were in touch with each other through mobile phones.
"We have seized the mobile phones and are analysing the data," he said.
Asked why police did not react on the spot when the firing took place, Khan said it could have led to civilian deaths.
"We are not terrorists. For them three or four civilian deaths at that time would not matter because they are terrorists," he said.
The officer said while the militants might have succeeded in their plan but the security grid will get them. "It took them four months to plan this and we got them in one day," he said.