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Two Suspected Militants Killed in an Encounter in Kashmir

Anees Zargar |
According to security officials, the militancy that was earlier a South Kashmir phenomenon, is now becoming a cause of concern across the union territory.
Kashmir 4g

Srinagar: At least two suspected militants were killed in Thanamandi area of Rajouri district in an encounter first reported last week on Thursday night. Even though the firing has stopped since Sunday, the security agencies have launched a region-wide search operation just ahead of the Indian Independence Day.

Officials in the security agencies believe that the two slain militants were part of the group that may have recently infiltrated from across the border. The apprehension of fresh infiltration from the Line of Control (LoC) comes after top army officials claimed that no such incidents were reported from the past six months, especially in the backdrop of India-Pakistan ceasefire revival.

But even as the ceasefire continues, there has been no let up in the incidents of encounters between armed forces and militants, civilian killings and the recovery of arms and ammunition across the region, indicating a steady graph.

The number of militants currently active in Kashmir valley are believed to be between 200 and 225. The average number has fallen by 100 since the abrogation of Article 370 with the militant landscape witnessing a shift after the unilateral decision was carried out on August 5, 2019. Two year later the militancy, however, has not shown any signs of erosion despite an apparent reduction in its size.

Since August 5, over 190 new recruitments have been reported in South Kashmir – a hotbed of militancy between 2014 to 2019. According to an army official posted in the area, a majority of them were recruited by Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) outfits. Between August 5, 2019 and August 5 2021, Hizb cadres recruited 68 new rebels into its ranks but the outfit has still waned both in terms of influence and the operations. With a strength of just over a dozen militants, now its two top commanders, Zubair Wani and Farooq Nalli from South Kashmir, are amongst the top most wanted militants in the region.

In the months following the abrogation of Article 370, militant group LeT has swelled its ranks by adding over 60 new recruits and is currently one of the most active groups in the region. Of the over 90 militants killed this year so far, a majority belonged to the group. The police and armed forces believe Lashkar is also “handling” another outfit, The Resistance Front (TRF), in the region and using it as a front to carry out other independent militant actions like civilian assassinations.

There has been an increase in the ranks of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) outfit, which is led by Pakistan-based Maulana Masood Azhar. The security network in Kashmir recently claimed to have killed a relative of Azhar known as Saifullah in an encounter in Dachigam forest. Saifullah was active in the region for about three years and was successful in reviving the outfit in South Kashmir, adding around 35 new recruits under his command in two years.

Many security officials argue that the militancy which used to be a South Kashmir phenomenon earlier is now becoming a cause of concern across the union territory, bursting in areas south of the Pir Panjal Range like Poonch and Rajouri. “There have been arrests and recoveries of huge caches of arms and ammunition from these areas in the last two years. Some modules have also been busted,” a senior official told NewsClick on the condition of anonymity.

The bigger challenge for the security grid nevertheless is the summer capital Srinagar, which reported an increase in militant activity in the last two years. Since August 2019, the region reported close to 80 killings carried out by militants, according to official records, many of them were carried out in Srinagar city and its outskirts.

“The militants are attempting to turn the capital as the new hotspot,” a counter-insurgency official said.

In 2021 alone, more than 35 militancy related incidents were reported from Srinagar, including 13 firing incidents, and at least one incident of gun salute carried out by militants in the city outskirts, according to police data.

Officials believe around a dozen militants are active in and around Srinagar where at least six targeted killings were carried out by militants including the recent killings of a policeman, a shopkeeper and a social media influencer in the Downtown area in the past two months.

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