‘Merchant of Death’, JEM Mastermind Tantray Gunned Down in Pulwama

Noor Trali used to stand out in a crowd because of his limp, but his mental acuity more than made up for that.

3 min read
File photo of JeM militant Noor Mohammed Tantray.

Noor Mohammed Tantray, a divisional commander of the Jaish-e-Mohammad terror outfit, was killed in an encounter with security forces in Pulwama District of Jammu and Kashmir on 26 December, an Army official told PTI.

Security Forces Kill The ‘Merchant of Death’

Nearly four feet tall with a limp marring his gait, Tantray alias Noor Trali stood out in a crowd, but his mental acuity more than made up for that disadvantage, officials said.

Called "merchant of death" by a special court in Delhi, Tantray was believed to be the brains behind several terror strikes, including the attack on the BSF camp outside the Srinagar airport on 3 October and on state minister Naeem Akhtar's cavalcade in Tral on 21 September this year.

His end came during the intervening night of 25 and 26 December at Samboora in Pulwama district of South Kashmir, not far from his home in Tral.

The killing of the 47-year-old JeM divisional commander, who was out on parole, is a "significant blow" to the terror group's operations in the Valley, officials said.

The Disadvantageous Limp

We had missed him only by few minutes in the past and I was sure he would run out of luck soon as his height was his biggest disadvantage. With each passing day, the search narrowed.
Anonymous Senior Police Office involved with the operations

Tantray's limp also made it difficult for him to disappear into a crowd and police officials were sure they would be able to isolate him.

After escaping from the Aripal encounter -- in which three JeM militants were killed -- at Tral in April this year, Tantray had been on the radar of the Special Unit of the Jammu and Kashmir Police.

Their efforts to track him down finally bore fruit on Christmas night when he was trapped in a house and could not escape. His two other accomplices, believed to be foreign militants, managed to flee, an official said.

Release On Parole Made Him More Active

Tantray, who spent eight years in Tihar jail, had intensified his activities since his release on parole in 2015.

A close aide of Jaish commander Ghazi Baba, who masterminded the 2001 attack on Parliament, Tantray was arrested from Delhi’s Sadar Bazar on 31 August 2003.

He was arrested along with four others and charged with conspiracy to carry out terror attacks in various parts of the national capital.

The five militants were arrested following an encounter in which two terrorists were killed. Besides arms and ammunition, police also recovered a sum of Rs 19.20 lakh from Tantray.

Then special POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) judge R K Gauba’s words proved prophetic when Tantray emerged as the most wanted militant in the Kashmir Valley after his release from jail, an official said.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2011 in the case and shifted to Srinagar's Central Jail in 2015 before being released on parole. His parole was extended by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court same year.

While sentencing him along with others under the stringent anti-terror law in 2011, the judge had said the challenge posed by terrorism had to be met "head-on by a multi-prolonged strategy".

India’s war against terrorism is to be waged not only by security measures but also by all organs of the state, including the judiciary which must share the responsibility of dealing with such elements with an iron hand.
The Judge who sentenced Tantray

Terming the five "merchants of death", the court had said the "foot soldiers of forces inimical to India and bent upon sabotaging the peace and tranquility here, besides posing a serious threat to its unity, sovereignty and integrity, have to be neutralised".

The “merchants of death” had to be locked away for the rest of their lives “...in order that they are suitably de- fanged and blunted so as to be of no further use to the enemy.
Order presented by the judge post Tantray’s sentence.

Tantray's terror graph validated the judge's words, said an official.

Tantray is believed to have provided logistical support to JeM militants who stormed the Police Lines in Pulwama in August this year where eight security personnel and three militants were killed in that attack.

He was allegedly involved in the JeM attack on the BSF camp, outside the Srinagar International Airport, on 3 October, in which one BSF officer and three militants were killed.

Tantray was also found to be involved in the grenade attack on State PWD Minister Naeem Akhtar's cavalcade in Tral on 21 September.

(Breathe In, Breathe Out: Are you finding it tough to breathe polluted air? Join hands with FIT to find #PollutionKaSolution. Send in your suggestions to fit@thequint.com or WhatsApp @ +919999008335)

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!