On December 27, 2017, Noor Mohammad Tantray, a leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), was killed by Indian Security Forces during a fierce crossfire in the Pulwama district.
The JeM, which stands for the Army of the Prophet Mohammed, is a separatist organization based in Pakistan that carries out terrorist attacks around the border of the disputed nations. The organization was responsible for numerous attacks in the past. Labeled by the US State Department as a terrorist organization since 2001, the JeM’s most notable attack was its 2008 Mumbai attacks.
In the span of four days in November 2008, 10 members of the JeM carried out a total of 12 coordinated attacks across Mumbai. The types of attack, which varied from bombing designated, high populated targets to shooting on the streets, resulted in the death of 164 people with at least 308 wounded. Indian politicians did little in the upcoming months to respond to this attack. The government’s lack of action caused Indians to criticise their political leaders as partly responsible for the attack. The Times of India’s front page read “our politicians fiddle as innocents die” to urge the government to take action.
Tantray, who was the operational chief of JeM, was a key member in the planning of the organization’s terrorist attacks. Tantray was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2003 for conspiracy of terrorist attacks but was released on parole in 2015. After his release, he “went underground and soon became the key man of JeM in coordinating and organizing attacks at different places,” says police spokesman Manoj Pundita. He was later believed to be associated with an attack on a Border Security Force camp near Srinagar airport that killed one soldier in October 2017.
One of the key features of Tantray was his shorter height. At 4 feet 3 inches, Tantray could easily blend into the crowd. However, at the same time, his small physical profile allows government agencies, such as the Indian Security Forces, to be more vigilant of his presence. His height made him easily identifiable and contributed to his death, says a senior police officer from Tantray’s hometown of Tral.
Tantray’s death is viewed as a major success for the Indian Security Forces, who has been battling separatist militant groups for more than a decade. While more than 1,000 people showed up to his funeral, his death triggered a new wave of unrest for power within the organization, taking the lives of more than 90 civilians and left thousands injured.