AT LEAST seven militants, including the chief of the Al-Qaeda affiliated militant outfit Ansar Gazwat ul Hind (AGH), were killed in two separate encounters in South Kashmir on Friday, according to J&K Police.
While AGH chief Imtiyaz Shah was killed along with another militant during an encounter at a hideout inside an orchard in Tral area of Pulwama, five others were killed in an overnight encounter at a mosque where they were hiding in Shopian, police said.
IG (Kashmir Zone) Vijay Kumar told reporters at a press conference in Srinagar that of the five militants killed in Shopian, two were affiliated to the Hizbul-ul-Mujahideen, one to the Lashkar-e-Toiba and two others to the AGH.
“We had sent in a militant’s brother urging him to surrender last night, after sending the imam of the mosque where they were hiding. This morning, we sent his parents but still he refused to surrender,” IG Kumar said.
Subsequently, he said, the “forces resorted to tear smoke shelling inside the mosque and fired through the window, trying not to damage the mosque”. Three civilians and at least four security personnel were injured during the encounter.
Among the five militants killed, four have been identified as Shopian residents, Muzamil Manzoor, Adil Ahmad Lone and Basik Ismaiel Bakshi, and Tral resident Younis Ahmad Khanday. The identification of the fifth militant is being ascertained, police said.
In the Tral encounter, the second militant killed has been identified as Zahid Ahmed Koka, a resident of Shopian.
“Seven AK-47 rifles and two pistols were recovered from the site of the encounters. With these two encounters, and the elimination of the seven terrorists, the group AGH has been fully wiped out once again,” J&K Police DGP, Dilbag Singh, told The Indian Express.
IG Kumar said that Shah, who was an active militant since July 2019, was tasked with attacking the Amarnath Yatra on the national highway. “It is a soft target but we will make sure that the security arrangements for the yatra are foolproof,” he said.
15 Corps Commander Lt General D P Pandey and GOC Victor Force Maj General Rashim Bali were also present at the press conference along with Kumar. “This year, recruitment figures are less and I am sure the way security forces and civil administration are working here, recruitment will decrease in the coming years. We will provide them with the opportunity to surrender but anyone who picks arms against the state will be neutralised,” Lt Gen Pandey said.
With the two encounters, the number of militants killed in 2021 has reached 31, including 28 in the south Kashmir region. Meanwhile, 138 militant associates, or over ground workers, have been arrested so far, as per official data.
Responding to queries on the claim that the AGH has been wiped out, the IG said: “As of now, there is only one active AGH member but it is difficult to say whether he will continue to be here or move to a different outfit.”
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