Srinagar: The police and paramilitary forces on Monday jointly carried out this year’s eighth anti-militant operation in Srinagar city killing two militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Among the slain was a top commander, who the J&K police have identified as a Pakistani-origin man named Saifullah, making him the first foreign casualty in the urban area in years.
According to Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbagh Singh, Saifullah was involved in three “back to back” attacks in the region’s Budgam district in which three security personnel were killed in two separate incidents. In another incident, the LeT commander was involved in an attack in Nowgam with another militant Adil alias Tipu Sultan. The militant Adil was earlier killed in an operation at Sirhama area of Pulwama, in which two policemen also lost their lives.
The police chief added that this is the fourth successful operation against militants in the last five days in which ten militants have been killed. The operations were carried out in parts of Kashmir valley--South Kashmir’s Shopian on October 7, at Kulgam on October 9 and at Pulwama on October 10.
Monday’s gunfight was carried out in the vicinity of Rambagh-Barzulla localities close to a flood-channel in Srinagar. Following this, protests broke out in various parts against the encounter. A residential house was completely damaged due to the explosives used against the militants. The slain militant associate of Saifullah is believed to be a local of the region identified as Irshad Ahmad Dar.
As many as 180 militants have been killed so far across Kashmir this year in 75 operations, the DGP said, while as many as 138 militants and “militant associates” have been apprehended. Both the figures are much higher than last year’s count.
The number of operations carried out in Srinagar this year has shown a considerable rise as the city remained quiet for past several years. As many as 18 militants have been killed in Srinagar this year, which the security officials say is a “sign of deterioration.”
A senior security official told NewsClick that despite increase in the anti-militancy operations, the security situation has shown no significant improvement with locals continuously joining the militant ranks. In South Kashmir, there has been an increase in the presence of foreign militants under Jaish-e-Muhammad’s (JeM) banner. “Nearly a dozen Jaish militants are active in Pulwama-Shopian areas. However, they don’t seem to be keen on recruitment,” the security official said.
Apart from LeT, both Jaish and Hizbul Mujahideen outfits are also led by militants codenamed as “Saifullah” or “Sword of Allah” - a reference used for Arab Islamic commander Khalid Bin Waleed, a contemporary of Prophet Muhammad.
“The militants codenamed Saifullah from Jaish and LeT - killed in Rambagh - are believed to be foreign nationals; the militant commander of Hizbul is a local of South Kashmir’s Pulwama,” an army official posted in South Kashmir said.
Hizbul’s Saifullah, also known as “Doctor”, is the operational chief of the outfit after he succeeded top commander Riyaz Naikoo, killed in May earlier this year. A resident of Malangpora village, the 31-year-old most-wanted militant’s real name is Saifullah Mir and he has been active for over five years now.
According to the officials, even as Hizb’s ranks are dwindling, the nature of militancy has not weakened at all and the outfits are attempting a strategic revival in North Kashmir areas.