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SRINAGAR: A Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba commander wanted for a string of terror attacks on security forces since mid-August was shot dead early Monday along with another terrorist after being trapped in Srinagar’s congested Rambagh locality for hours as a cordon-and-search team swooped in for the kill, taking care to avoid collateral damage.

Saifullah, not to be confused with his Pakistan-born Hizbul Mujahideen namesake “Dr Saifullah”, is the first Pakistani terrorist to be spotted and killed within Srinagar city since the resurgence of terrorism in Kashmir in 2016.

J&K DGP Dilbag Singh said Saifullah, who infiltrated the Valley from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir earlier this year, had been masterminding one strike after another, including four consecutive attacks in which three CRPF and two police personnel were killed since August 14.

Shifting base from north to south Kashmir, the Lashkar commander and his slain aide — identified as Irshad Ahmed Dar, alias Abu Usama, from Trichal in Pulwama — had moved further to enter Srinagar around 15 days ago, IGP (Kashmir range) Vijay Kumar told TOI.

Together, the duo carried out a terror attack at Nowgam on August 14 in which two IRP cops were killed and another injured; at Kaisarmullah in Chadoora on September 24, in which a CRPF man was killed and his rifle snatched; and on October 5 on the New Bypass in Taingam Nowgam, in which two CRPF personnel were slain and four injured.

Giving details of the operation against Saifullah and his aide, IGP Kumar said a joint team of Srinagar Police and the CRPF moved into the Rambagh area in the dead of night, based on intelligence inputs about the duo’s presence in a house there. The bodies of the two ultras, who had opened fire at the search party, were found in their hideout long after the first shots were fired.

The two bodies will be sent to north Kashmir’s Baramulla for burial after completion of medico-legal formalities, including DNA collection. If their kin want to participate in the last rites, they can come forward for identification of the bodies, police said.

DGP Singh said another terrorist known to be involved in a couple of attacks remains within Srinagar city. “He will be taken out soon,” the police chief said at a press conference here, adding that security forces had killed 180 ultras in 75 anti-terror operations so far this year. “All anti-terror operations conducted this year were clean,” he said, pointing out that only one civilian had died in the crossfire during an encounter in Srinagar’s Batamaloo area on September 17.

On whether ultras from Lashkar and other outfits were trying to set foot again in Srinagar, the DGP said eight encounters took place in the city this year alone in which 18 terrorists including a top Hizbul Mujahideen commander were killed. “Whenever any terror outfit tries to establish its base in Srinagar, we successfully act against them with the help of intelligence and other sources,” he said.

A total of 19 policemen and 21 CRPF personnel were killed in various terror attacks in Kashmir. “Army lost 15 soldiers and a majority of them were killed on the Line of Control,” DGP Singh said.

Responding to a question about the rehabilitation of misled youth, the police chief said 26 Kashmiri youngsters who had taken up arms were brought back and reunited with their families this year. Asked whether these youth were being sent outside J&K, the DGP replied in the negative. On the topic of a rehabilitation policy for them, he said, “Officially, there is no policy as yet. Details would be shared when there is one.”

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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INDIA

Pakistan still a haven for terror, India says on FATF decision eve

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NEW DELHI: With the ongoing plenary of terror watchdog FATF likely to decide on Friday if Pakistan should remain in its grey list, India reiterated that Islamabad continued to provide safe haven to terrorist entities and individuals.

The government also said Pakistan had not yet taken any action against several terror entities and individuals, including those proscribed by UNSC like Masood Azhar, Dawood Ibrahim and Zakir-ur-Rahman Lakhvi. All indications are that Pakistan will remain in the grey list for not fulfilling all its commitments to check terror financing and money laundering.

As the MEA said in its statement, it’s understood that Pakistan has addressed only 21 action items so far out of the 27-point FATF Action Plan.

“Six important action items are yet to be addressed,” said spokesperson Anurag Srivastava, adding it was well known that Pakistan’s a haven for terrorists. All six remaining points are said to be related to terror financing.

The issue of Pakistan’s compliance is being looked at the virtual FATF plenary meeting that will get over on October 23. As the official said, Parisbased FATF makes public announcements of its decisions according to its rules and procedures after its Plenary meeting.

“FATF has well laid out standards and procedures for putting a country in its Black List and Grey List. After a country is put on a List, an action plan is given to it and the country concerned is expected to fully complete the action plan within the stipulated time. Those found wanting in implementing their obligations are held accountable and subjected to appropriate action,” he said.

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INDIA

LAC stand-off: India rejects China’s demand, but talks on

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NEW DELHI: As India and China maintain stable but confrontational positions in eastern Ladakh, the external affairs ministry on Thursday said that “the immediate task is to ensure a comprehensive disengagement of troops in all the friction areas”.

The two sides are reportedly engaged in high-level talks to resolve the stand-off. According to sources, China has been asking for a de-escalation of armoured and artillery units before disengagement. That is unacceptable to the Indian side because China has a much easier route to re-arm its troops, unlike India.

“India and China continue to have discussions through both diplomatic and military channels to peacefully resolve the issues along the LAC in India-China border areas. This is in keeping with the agreement reached between the two foreign ministers during their meeting in Moscow on September 10,” MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at a media briefing.

Srivastava also referred to the last round of diplomatic parleys between India and China on September 30 and the seventh round of military talks on October 12.

“The two sides have reiterated their desire to maintain dialogue and communication through military and diplomatic channels, and arrive at a mutually acceptable solution for disengagement as early as possible,” he added.

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INDIA

Covid: Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka too say they’ll give free vaccine doses

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NEW DELHI: A Covid vaccine might still be some time away, but it’s already raining promises of free vaccination across states. Hours after BJP’s election manifesto for Bihar offered free coronavirus vaccination to all if the NDA retained office, at least two states — Tamil Nadu and Karnataka — vowed to vaccinate every citizen for free while a third — Madhya Pradesh — reserved its commitment for the poor.

Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi K Palaniswami was first off the blocks, promising free vaccination for all as and when a mass-produced vaccine was made available.

DMK president M K Stalin promptly accused the CM of “trying to show off”, saying it was the responsibility of any government to safeguard people during a pandemic by making available critical vaccines free of cost.

“EPS did not have the heart to offer a dole of Rs 5,000 to the common people who lost their livelihood (during the lockdown)” he said. With bypolls to 28 MP seats just 11 days away, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan jumped onto the bandwagon late on Thursday and announced it would be free for the poor.

“BJP has said a very good thing in Bihar. And I am saying the same thing here. Let the corona vaccine come, every poor person in MP will be administered the vaccine for free,” he said at a poll rally in Gwalior. Around 9.30pm, he took to Twitter to reiterate the promise, inviting criticism from Congress.

In Karnataka, the vaccine would be free for everyone if and when commercially available, health commissioner Pankaj Kumar Pandey said. State health and family welfare minister K Sudhakar said the state was working with experts on a plan of action for distribution of the vaccine, including determining which vulnerable groups must be covered first.

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