Top Lashkar-e-Taliban militants Abu Dujana and Arif Lelhari, who were killed in an encounter in Pulwama district on August 1, had helped set up the Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, al-Qaeda’s purported cell in Jammu and Kashmir, its commander Zakir Musa (pictured above) claimed on Saturday. Musa, a former commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, said both Dujana and Lelhari had played an important role in forming the terror outfit, The Indian Express reported.

“Shaheed Abu Dujana Bhai and Shaheed Arif Bhai were two such associates who decided to embrace the flag of truth when they first saw it,” Musa said in an audio statement. “And after its formation, they had the distinction to become the first martyrs of this jihadi organisation.”

Jammu and Kashmir’s Director General of Police SP Vaid said there was no way to verify the authenticity of the audio clips, though he admitted there were reports suggesting that Musa and Dujana were close, reported the Hindustan Times.

“They had made similar claims about al Qaeda’s presence in Valley in 2003, as well,” Vaid said, according to the Hindustan Times. “We need to see what kind of backing they have. But for us, a terrorist is a terrorist, no matter which organisation he belongs to.”

The LeT militants were killed in an encounter in Hakripora village in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district. The gunfight broke out while security forces were conducting search operations in Hakripora, acting on intelligence that there were militants hiding in the area.