In a significant development, Shahid Latif, the alleged mastermind behind the 2016 Pathankot airbase attack, was gunned down by unidentified gunmen in a mosque located in Daska town of Pakistan’s Sialkot district. Latif, also known by the alias Bilal, was a designated terrorist under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Background on the Pathankot Attack:
On January 2, 2016, the Indian Air Force’s Pathankot Airbase became the target of a major terrorist attack. Heavily armed militants from the JeM outfit infiltrated the base, leading to a siege that lasted three days. The attack resulted in the death of seven Indian Air Force personnel. The security forces responded swiftly, and after a prolonged gun battle, all four attackers were neutralized. The operation also led to the death of six security personnel, with three more succumbing to their injuries later. The attack strained India-Pakistan relations, with India attributing the attack to a Pakistan-based terror group.
Latif’s involvement in terrorism traces back to 1993 when he infiltrated the Kashmir Valley. He was subsequently arrested in 1994. Notably, he was incarcerated in Jammu jail alongside Masood Azhar, the founder of the JeM terror group, until 2010. Following his release, he was deported to Pakistan in the same year and formally joined JeM.
The circumstances surrounding Latif’s assassination remain a matter of speculation. The involvement of local, home-grown terrorists in the killing is suspected. It’s worth noting that Latif, along with 24 other terrorists, had been released by India in 2010 as part of diplomatic efforts to improve relations with Pakistan. His death has reignited discussions about the security situation in the region and the ongoing challenges posed by extremist elements.
Officials have described Latif’s death as a significant blow to the JeM on Pakistani soil. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India had listed Latif as a wanted terrorist. His death has brought the 2016 Pathankot attack back into the limelight, prompting security agencies to revisit the incident and assess the current threat levels.
The death of Shahid Latif, a key figure behind one of the most significant terrorist attacks on Indian soil, marks a pivotal moment in the ongoing battle against terrorism in the region. As investigations continue, it remains to be seen how this event will impact the dynamics of terror outfits operating in the region and broader India-Pakistan relations.