Srinagar: The number of local recruitments into the militant ranks in Kashmir have fallen significantly this year, according to official sources, with many former bastions like Tral witnessing a dormant phase due to continued counter-insurgency operations.
The presence of foreigners, however, is likely to increase with the onset of summer season as snow melts along the Line of Control (LoC), paving way for renewed infiltration attempts. This year, at least a dozen militants have been killed in operations across Kashmir so far, while the various security agencies maintain that the number of active militants are a little over 200.
Over 70 foreign militants are believed to be present in the region, their exact numbers, however, remain unconfirmed. In South Kashmir alone, the numbers have increased significantly since two to three years from being less than a dozen to over 30 actives currently, as per reports. The foreign militants, mostly from the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) outfit, reportedly operate mostly independently and maintain the command of their operations.
The rest of the outfits including Hizbul Mujahideen (Hizb), Al Badr, Lashkar e Toiba (LeT) function mostly with local people in the chain of command. Besides, the newly created outfits like The Resistance Front (TRF), Kashmir Tigers (KT) and People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF) are commanded and operate with local chain of command, according to sources.
The increase in the cadres of JeM is considered to be one of the most emerging challenges for security agencies in the region. As many as 225 militants were reportedly killed in over 100 operations in the union territory last year, which also witnessed an increase in the militant recruitments. But, most of the new recruits were either killed or arrested by the government forces, according to police records. Of the total slain militants in 2020, less than two dozen were foreigners.
“There has been a surge in foreign numbers as well as in the arms and ammunition,” an official told NewsClick on condition of anonymity.
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The presence of newly created outfits like TRF, PAFF, KT and many others which emerged last year – especially after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories – have more online signatures than actual ground presence. Both PAFF and KT allegedly have two to three known actives.
The TRF is led by Abbas Sheikh, a senior who joined militancy in 2015, after parting ways with Hizb due to a reported fallout with former Hizb chief Riyaz Naikoo. The TRF – many in the security consider to be LeT front – emerged on the militant landscape last year and even carried out several attacks in the region, leaving footprints in Budgam in central Kashmir, Sopore in the north Kashmir and later at Shopian in south Kashmir where Abbas held its charge.
Abbas is amongst the most wanted militants security forces have put a lookout on. The IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar earlier this week claimed to have received inputs of Abbas’ presence at Chanapora area of Srinagar city.
“We received inputs about LeT/TRF chief Abbas’s presence in Chanapora area of Srinagar. We have sounded an alert and an active vigil is being maintained,” IGP Kumar said.
The IGP was speaking to reporters after claiming to have eliminated the top commander of Al Badr outfit Ghani Khwaja. “The reins of Hizb is being controlled in the Valley by Zubair Wani, an MPhil dropout from Anantnag since Novermber 2020. Him and his deputy Farooq Bhat aka Nalli are also amongst the list of most wanted militants,” an army official, posted in South Kashmir, said.
In the most wanted list are also JeM’s Ghazi Rashid, a war veteran who has trained militants in Afghanistan, and Saifullah aka Lambu.
The agencies have also heightened vigil to close in on LeT militants Umar Khanday, Saqib Manzoor and Yousuf Kandroo for their alleged involvement in recent attacks in Srinagar including the one at Baghat.
The police, in a significant operation, managed to arrest the chief of the newly floated Lashkar e Mustafa (LeM) outfit Hidayatullah Malik aka Hasnain, who was arrested in Jammu. As per unconfirmed posters that surfaced after his arrest -- claiming to be from Pak based senior militant command United Jehad Council (UJC) -- Malik was disowned. An entire network, however, was exposed lending a severe blow to the local militant network in South Kashmir where he had managed to rope in several local recruits.
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