Al Qaida affiliate wiped out: Jammu and Kashmir police
Jammu and Kashmir police on Wednesday claimed to have wiped out al Qaida’s Kashmir affiliate by killing its chief and two militants in a gunfight in Pulwama.
Three militants of the Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, including its chief Hameed Lelhari, were killed in the gunfight in the Rajpora Awantipora area of Pulwama on Tuesday. Lelhari had succeeded Zakir Musa after the latter was killed in a gunfight in May.
The police had on Tuesday claimed that the three militants belonged to the Jaish-e-Mohammed but said on Wednesday that they were from the Ansar.
State police chief Dilbagh Singh said the Ansar had been eliminated in Kashmir with the three deaths. He identified the other two slain militants as Junaid Rasheed and Naveed Tak, both locals.
“All the killed terrorists, as per police records, were part of the Zakir Musa group and were wanted by the police for their complicity in a series of terror crimes, including attacks on security establishments and civilian atrocities,” Singh said.
“The AGH (Ansar) has been wiped out but some elements who are overground workers are there. They suddenly crop up and join militant ranks…. But as of now, the AGH has been wiped out from Kashmir,” Singh said
Operations against militants had stopped for weeks after the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and have gained pace after the authorities partially lifted the clampdown on mobiles phones.
A joint team of security forces launched the counter-militant operation on the basis of specific information about the presence of insurgents in an area on Tuesday evening. When the forces zeroed in on the suspected place, the holed-up militants fired indiscriminately, triggering the gunfight.
This was the second gunfight in Awantipora and the third in south Kashmir in the past two weeks.
With these killings, the militant toll since August 5, when the state’s special status was scrapped, rose to 12. The militants have been killed in six encounters in south, central and north Kashmir.
DGP Singh said Pakistan was desperately trying to destabilise Kashmir and create unrest, particularly after the abrogation of the special status, but the security grid is taking all measures to counter the neighbouring country’s designs.
The police chief said militant recruitment in the past two-and-a-half months had not increased, with only five to six youths having joined militancy.
He said the police were verifying whether these youths had joined militant ranks.
Singh said the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Toiba were continuing their efforts to forge unity and coordinate with the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and other outfits.