Seventeen Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir in the month and a half since the Pulwama terrorist attack, intelligence sources have said. A total 21 Jaish militants have been killed in the state in the first three months of this year so far, these sources said.
A Jaish suicide bomber killed 40 CRPF personnel in Pulwama on February 14, following which the crackdown on the terrorist group was intensified. Overall, 60 militants, including those from other groups, have been killed in 2019, the sources told The Sunday Express.
Six civilians have been killed so far this year, including 12-year-old Atif Mir who was taken hostage by militants last week in Kashmir’s Bandipora district. Infiltration of militants and targeting of both civilians and security forces were expected to increase in the coming days, Home Ministry officials said.
Soon after the Pulwama attack, the Centre had ordered the deployment of more than 10,000 paramilitary troops in Jammu and Kashmir on law and order duty.
North Block officials confirmed that the security forces have been directed to “specifically target JeM”.
Apart from the Jaish, militants belonging to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and the al-Qaida inspired Zakir Musa group had been killed, the officials said.
Three local militants affiliated to the LeT and HM were killed in South Kashmir’s Shopian district on Thursday, they said.
In 2018, security forces killed over 257 militants in Jammu and Kashmir, the largest number in the last four years. A total 213, 150, and 108 militants were killed in 2017, 2016, and 2015 respectively. The number of violent incidents also peaked last year at 614, compared to 342, 322, and 208 in 2017, 2016, and 2015 respectively. On Saturday, militants hurled a grenade at security force personnel in Pulwama, injuring a CRPF jawan.
“By invoking Afzal Guru, the JeM is trying to re-brand itself in Jammu and Kashmir, and there has been a surge in their ranks in the Valley, particularly in South Kashmir,” an official said, quoting intelligence reports.
Afzal Guru was convicted for his role in the 2001 Parliament attack, and hanged in 2013.
The JeM was formed by the Pakistan-based cleric Masood Azhar after he was released from prison in India in exchange for the hostages of the hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814 in 1999. The ranks of the Jaish were filled by former cadres of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, which was formed to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.
Soon after Azhar’s release, the Jaish attacked Parliament in 2001. Its so-called Afzal Guru Squad carried out multiple attacks on Indian security forces, including in Dinanagar (2015) and Pathankot (2016).