Talha Rashid, the nephew of Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar Alvi, has been killed in a Jammu and Kashmir Police-led operation, a spokesperson for the terrorist group announced early on Tuesday. The operation, targeting a terrorist hideout in the small village of Aglar Kandi, six kilometres from Rajpora in southern Kashmir, also claimed the lives of the group’s military commander for south Kashmir, identified only by the pseudonym “Muhammad Bhai”, and Kashmir resident Wasim Ganai.
Police sources told The Indian Express the operation, which involved the 44 Rashtriya Rifles and 182 Central Reserve Police Force, also claimed the life of an Indian Army soldier, whose identity is being withheld until his next of kin could be notified.
A United States Army-issue weapon, appearing to be a Colt-manufactured M4 carbine, was recovered from the hideout, police sources said. The weapon, possibly lost in combat in Afghanistan, had featured widely in online propaganda posts last week, after an ethnic Kashmiri terrorist from the Rajpora area released pictures posing with it. The weapon was, erroneously, described as a new Russian rifle. Also Read: Coordination among security forces is so good that terrorists are being regularly neutralised: Rajnath Singh
Talha Rashid, the sources said, had been targeted as part of an ongoing police operation against a group of an estimated Jaish-e-Muhammad terrorists sent across the Line of Control to carry out high-profile fidayeen attacks. The three men killed in Rajpora are suspected of having carried out a recent ambush targeting a police post near Rajpora, killing constable Abdul Salaam.
Jaish commanders in Pakistan, who have been operating openly despite an official ban on the organisation, launched a major fundraising and recruitment drive this summer. The organisation’s house magazine, al-Qalam, had called on landowners to gift their ushr, a religious tithe levied on the harvest, to help “martyrs, prisoners detained for Islam, the families of religious warriors, seminaries, offices and needy individuals“.
A record 72 jihadists have been killed in south Kashmir so far this year—including ten from the Jaish-e-Muhammad—the highest number in a decade. Four ranking commanders—the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen’s Yasin Itoo, the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Abu Dujanah and Ismail, and the Jaish’s Mehmood—were among those shot in a series of operations that resulted from police intelligence.
“From 2012 on, there had been a sharp drop-off in offensive operations against terrorists, which allowed their networks in southern Kashmir to consolidate,” an intelligence officer said. “That lauds the foundations for the crisis we erupted in 2016,” he noted.
Interestingly, there have been few confrontations between security forces and stone-throwing mobs at the sites of encounters in recent weeks—a sign, the intelligence officer argued, that the influence of jihadists in the countryside was waning.