When the Jammu and Kashmir Police killed a top Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander, Junaid Mattoo, and his associate in Arwani village of south Kashmir on June 16, no one would have thought that retaliation would come the very same day.
In what seemed to be a reprisal attack, LeT militants attacked a police jeep and killed SHO Feroz Ahmad Dar along with his five associates, and disfigured their bodies.
But intelligence reports have a different story to tell.
According to intelligence sources, the police party was led to a "well planned trap" that was brutally executed by the LeT militants with the help of local over-ground workers or OGWs.
"Dar had also received a threat to his life a few days back from some OGWs but he didn't pay heed to that", sources privy to the development said. The movement of SHO Dar and his escort was conveyed to the militants by local sympathisers and the department was in the process of identifying them, the sources said.
"It looks like a conspiracy hatched by LeT Commander Bashir Lashkar and the local OGWs to eliminate the 'people friendly officer'," Senior Superintendent of Police in Anantnag, Zubair Khan, told IANS over phone.
Deputy Inspector General of south Kashmir S.P. Pani too seconded the views of SSP Khan and said the culprits would be nabbed soon.
"We are looking into the conspiracy that was hatched between Lashkar and its associates and, more importantly, we are investigating what was the intention — the motive behind this attack," DIG Pani told IANS over phone.
So who was Feroz Ahmed Dar?
In 2010, when the Valley was burning amid the Hurriyat headed unrest, Dar of the Sangam area of south Kashmir joined the Jammu and Kashmir Police as sub-inspector. A year later, he got married. He has two daughters, Addah (5) and Simran (3).
Amidst the tragedy, the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti misinformed the assembly on June 17 about his status. Expressing "pain" over the killing of six policemen in Anantnag, Mehbooba Mufti regretted that the slain SHO was a "bachelor who died so young before his marriage." The chief minister, who also holds the home ministry portfolio, should have known better.
For fellow police officers, Dar was a person of integrity who had looked for out-of-the-box solutions for everything. Senior Police officers remember Dar as an outstanding officer who had built good relations with locals and was effective in containing the situation in the area last July.
"Feroz had solution to everything and he was a people-friendly officer. It was because of his close rapport with locals that he managed to keep Achabal calm in last year's unrest," said DIG Pani.
Sources said that the Dar-led police team had been busy all day dealing with the law and order situation in the town, sparked by the encounter where three Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants, including its commander Matto, were killed in Arwani village of south Kashmir.
According to the police, as Dar was travelling back to Achabal, local OGWs tipped the LeT Commander Lashkar, who along with "10-15 militants" laid an ambush near the Thajwari area of the town.
"As the police party travelling in non-bullet proof car reached the area, stone pelting halted them. The policemen got down to chase the stone-throwers. To their surprise, they faced a volley of bullets from all sides," sources said.
The ambush by the militants killed Dar and five policemen — Sheraz Ahmad Bhat, Tasweer Ahmad Dar, Sharik Ahmad Lone, Sabzar Ahmad Cheek and Mohd Arif Zazikee.
"There are conflicting reports about the number of militants… we say about 4 or 5, but some say there were 10 to 15. So we will explore who were the other people," DIG Pani said.
Five AK-47s, 18 magazines and one pellet shotgun were taken away from the dying policemen. "We are going to track the killers," Director-General of Police S.P. Vaid said.