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Srinagar, Mar 11 :  The mastermind of the February 14 Pulwama terror attack, in which 40 CRPF personnel had died, has been killed in an encounter in south Kashmir's Tral area, officials said Monday.

Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist Mudasir Ahmed Khan alias 'Mohd Bhai' was among two militants killed in the encounter in Tral's Pinglish area in Pulwama district, they said.

The encounter lasted past midnight. 

Khan and an JeM operative, who officials believe is Sajjad Bhat, whose vehicle was used in the Pulwama attack, were killed in the gunfight with security forces. 

The family members of Khan have taken his body, the officials said, adding that family members of Bhat refused to take the body, saying it was charred beyond recognition.

Security forces had launched a cordon and search operation in Pinglish after receiving specific intelligence about the presence of militants in the area.

The operation turned into an encounter after the militants opened fire at the search party who retaliated, the officials said.

Lesser-known JeM terrorist Khan has been identified as the brain behind the audacious terror strike in Pulwama that left 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel dead on February 14, officials said on Sunday.

The CRPF personnel were killed when a JeM terrorist rammed an explosives-laden vehicle -- a Maruti Eeco minivan -- into their bus.The minivan was bought by Bhat just 10 days before the suicide attack.

Suicide attacker Adil Ahmed Dar, who blew the explosive-laden vehicle next to the bus, had been in constant contact with Khan, officials said.

Piecing together evidence gathered so far, security officials said 23-year-old Khan, an electrician with a graduate degree and a resident of Pulwama, arranged the vehicle and explosives used in the terror strike.

A resident of Mir Mohalla of Tral, Khan joined the JeM sometime in 2017 as an overground worker and was later drawn into the terror outfit by Noor Mohammed Tantrey, alias 'Noor Trali', who is believed to have helped the terror group's revival in the Kashmir Valley.

After Tantray was killed in December 2017, Khan disappeared from his home on January 14, 2018, and was active since then.

After completing his graduation, Khan did a one-year diploma course as electrician from an Industrial Training Institute (ITI). 

The eldest son of a labourer, Khan is also believed to be involved in the terror strike at the army camp in Sunjawan in February 2018, in which six personnel and a civilian were killed.

His role has also come under lens in the Lethpora attack on a CRPF camp in January 2018 that left five CRPF personnel dead.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the February 14 terror attack, had carried out searches at the residence of Khan on February 27.               [Agencies]


Mumbai, Mar 11 :  The Shiv Sena on Monday said patriotism is not the monopoly of a single party and falsely calling people "anti-national" just because they are political opponents is nothing but suppression of freedom of expression.

The party's remarks come amid a row over politicisation of the air strike.

"Patriotism is not the monopoly of a single party...we wonder when politicians will understand that the action (air strike) was part of duty (of soldiers) and not a task asked to be carried out," the Uddhav Thackeray-led party said in an editorial in its mouthpiece 'Saamana'.

Those demanding proof of the air strike and the ones seeking votes donning military fatigues are equally wrong, the Sena said, referring to Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari who wore military fatigues at a recent rally.

The Sena said it was an insult to the soldiers and their courage.

"Why act frivolously by wearing soldiers' uniforms which they have obtained after rigorous training and hard work? It supports the allegations of the Opposition that the BJP is politicising the air strike," said the Sena, an ally of the BJP at the Centre and in Maharashtra.

The terror attack in Pulwama in which 40 CRPF soldiers were killed was more serious than the air strike and images of the carnage in Kashmir could be used by the Opposition to corner those in power, the editorial in 'Saamna' said.

"We have basically failed to prevent the casualties of our soldiers, but some wear the camouflage (outfits) and campaign for political reasons. It doesn't look good when the Election Commission has to intervene and ask the political parties not to use images of jawans in political campaigns," it said.

The Sena lauded the "real courage" shown by wives of slain Army officers Colonel Santosh Mahadik and Major Prasad Mahadik, Swati Mahadik and Gauri Mahadik respectively, for their decision to undergo rigorous training and join the armed forces to serve the country.          [Agencies]


Mumbai, Mar 11 :  Choreographer-actor Punit Pathak has emerged as the winner of the ninth season of adventure-reality show "Khatron Ke Khiladi". 

In the grand finale, Punit, competing with Aditya Narayan and Ridhima Pandit, performed better than the duo to bag the title. 

"Nothing comes easy for me, this win was due to sheer hard work, focus, determination and self believe. It feels great to be crowned as the ultimate winner of Khatron Ke Khiladi 9. 

"Winning a show that directs its participants to face their fears and overcome them, does wonders to their confidence," Punit said in a statement. 

The Colors show was hosted by filmmaker Rohit Shetty and he said watching participants "push their boundaries" has always been an incredible experience.

"Punit Pathak has been a well deserving winner as he fought all odds and took all the challenges head on. I am extremely proud of each and every contestant who bravely fought their fears. Together we had a great time and a memorable experience," he added.              [Agencies]


Mumbai, Mar 11 :  Equity benchmark Sensex surged over 233 points 36,904 in early trade on Monday, which is seen by experts as a pre-poll rally following the announcement of 2019 general election dates. 

Similarly, the NSE gauge Nifty rose over 75 points to scale past 11,110 level.

The BSE Sensex started off on positive note at 36,741.57 and furthered its gains to trade at 36,904.81, rising 233.38 points, or 0.64 per cent, in early trade. 

The broader Nifty opened at 11,068.75 and extended its rise to 11,110.95, gaining 75.55 points, or 0.68 per cent. 

Experts said that prevailing geopolitical concerns in the wake of recent India-Pakistan military conflicts will be a key factor in the upcoming general elections that may help incumbent NDA government at the Centre. 

With the Election Commission of India (EC) announcing dates for the much-awaited 2019 general elections, market analysts say a pre-poll rally is likely to continue, citing historical data which suggests a positive trend in the stock market in case the incumbent returns to power. 

Last week, the 30-share Sensex settled 53.99 points, or 0.15 per cent, lower at 36,671.43, while the broader NSE Nifty slipped 22.80 points, or 0.21 per cent, to 11,035.40.

During the week, the Sensex gained 607.62 points or 1.68 per cent; and the Nifty advanced 171.9 points or 1.58 per cent.

Meawhile, Asian bourses saw mixed trading activities following the subdued last week for global equities. Hong Kong and Japan posted gains, while South Korea stocks retreated. In contrast, Chinese stocks soared.

Besides election-related developments this week, the market will watch CPI, WPI data, analysts said.
     [Agencies]