The firing between militants and police at a Srinagar hospital and the escape of a Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist was a carefully planned operation by the terrorist organisation. Naveed Jutt escaped from SMHS hospital on February 6 after two Lashkar militants opened fire at the two policemen who were accompanying him to hospital for a medical check up.
Two critically injured policemen succumbed to their wounds and the third one remained unheard. The arrest of five men involved in the firing followed swiftly by following the CCTV footage shot in the hospital parking lot. Three of them are LeT terrorists.
The conspiracy to free dreaded Pakistani terrorist Naveed Jutt from police custody was hatched four months ago but did not succeed in the first attempt, said Additional Director General of Police Munir Ahmad Khan, who also holds a charge as IGP Kashmir.
The police officer 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 militant attack in which two cops escorting the Pakistani terrorist were killed.
The police arrested two militants and two overground workers 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.
The elimination of Lashkar-e-Toiba'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, said a top police official.
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. 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 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. Maybe that is why they were so desperate to get Naveed freed," Khan told reporters.
All the militant 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 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.
"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 analyzing 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.