Srinagar, Jan 3: On December 30, last year, four Jaish-e-Muhammad militants were killed in an encounter with the government forces at Rajpora in Southern district Pulwama and the gunfight was declared as the last one of the year 2018.
Barely after four days of Rajpora encounter, the new year’s first gun-battle broke out in Tral—again in southern Pulwama district resulting in the killing of three militants and a soldier. And three days after Pulwama encounter, Aripal witnessed another gunfight, second in the area and also second in the New Year that saw the killing of top Hizbul Mujaheen commander Hamaad.
Top security officials believe that amid the surge in the local militant recruitment after the killing of new age Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in July 2016, a strong effort was put by the joint teams of police, army and the CRPF with primary focus on Pulwama and Shopian districts.
“Though all the districts of southern Kashmir were declared hypersensitive in terms of militant activities but extra efforts were used to flush out militants from Pulwama and Shopian. These two districts primarily contributed to the local recruitment,” a top intelligence officer told Kashmir Indepth, wishing not to be named. “It was these two districts where militants would take refuge in residential houses where they would get food, clothes and other logistic support.”
The officer said that Kulgam and Anantnag also contributed to militant recruitment since July 2016 but Pulwama and Shopian took a lead. “In Pulwama and Shopian districts, 72 militants were killed of the 250 total militants killed in 2018,” he said.
A senior police officer said that in a bid to “wipe-out” militancy from south Kashmir turf, a multi-pronged strategy was adopted that includes choking the all supply lines for the militants, launching frequent searches to push them out of their hide-outs. “This was why many militants were killed in the underground bunkers in south Kashmir Pulwama district,” he said.
According to the police, the number of militants killed in 2018 was highest in a decade. “Yes, after 2007, this is for the first time that such a huge number of militants were killed in counter insurgency operations in Kashmir,” a police source said.
An army officer revealed that “a series of public contact programs launched across south Kashmir helped increase human intelligence that led to the flow of credible information about the presence of militants and their hide-outs. “At times, human intelligence was supported by the technical intelligence. Otherwise, technical intelligence is employed at the line of control (LoC) to check the movement of infiltrators,” he said, wishing not to be named, as he is not authorised to speak to media.