Four militants, including the head of the banned terror outfit Islamic State-Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK), were killed in an encounter with security forces Friday in the Khiram area of Anantnag in Jammu and Kashmir. The operation, in which a policeman and a civilian were also killed, took place just six days before the start of the annual Amarnath Yatra near Sirigufwara, a village close to NH-44, through which the Yatra convoys ply after crossing into Kashmir.
In what is the first acknowledgement of possible IS presence in the region, J&K Police claimed that the militants killed in Anantnag were associated with the ISJK. The militants were “IS inspired and had a history of attacking policemen in the state,” IGP, Kashmir SP Pani told The Indian Express. According to Director General of Police, SP Vaid the terrorists were “reportedly affiliated to ISJK”.
Among the militants killed was Dawood Ahmad Sofi alias Danish (33) from Mustafa Abad, Zainakote, who led the group, that claimed IS allegiance in the state. Also known as Dawood Salfi, police said he was a school drop out and worked as a salesman and then as a tour operator before joining armed militancy in 2016. Another militant Eesa Fazili, who was killed along with two associates in March, was also part of the same module, sources said.
Police said one civilian, Mohammad Yousuf Rather (53) succumbed to injuries after the encounter, which also left another 13 injured. Ashiq Hussain of the J&K police’s Special Operations Group was also killed in the operation. Mobile internet was suspended in Anantnag and Srinagar to avert law and order trouble.
In another encounter in Tral, at least nine security forces personnel were injured after a grenade was lobbed at forces on security duty. Five CRPF jawans and four J&K Police personnel were injured in the attack. Police sources said that “not more than two members of the group (ISJK) may be active after today’s operation. There is no organisation or structure to the group.” Three others killed with Sofi have been identified as Mohammad Ashraf Itoo (28), Majeed Ahmad Dar (22) and Adil Rehman Bhat (26). “Social media profiling and inputs indicate that they were inclined to Daesh ideology,” police said. Two of them had B.Tech degrees from Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University.
According to police, Dawood Sofi was involved in a number of stone pelting cases in the area prior to joining the terror outfit. “He was involved in a terror attack which resulted in the death of ASI Ghulam Mohammad and head constable Naseer Ahmad at Bagh-Ali-Mardan Khan in Zadibal and also in the killing of a policeman and snatching his rifle at Tengpora Batamaloo besides other attacks,” said sources.
According to police, he was initially known to be affiliated with Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen terror outfit. Police also claimed to have recovered “incriminating material and a huge quantity of ammunition” from the site of encounter. At HMT-Zainkote protests near his house were reported, police said.
According to PTI, retired IPS officer K Vijay Kumar, appointed as advisor to Governor N N Vohra, Friday reviewed the security situation in the Valley. After assuming office, Kumar met the top police brass including DGP Vaid, the Director General of Prisons, special DG and other officers.
Based on “specific intelligence”, a joint operation was launched early Friday by Army, police and CRPF in general areas of Naushera, Anantnag, according to the Army. While the search of the area was being carried out, forces came under fire from one of the houses. “One personnel of the SOG was martyred and a civilian was grievously injured in terrorist’s fire, who, later succumbed to his injuries,” said an Army statement.
“In the retaliatory fire, two terrorists were killed initially. While search operations in the adjoining area intensified, terrorists, hiding in a ‘nullah” fired at the security forces. Two more terrorists were killed in the ensuing firefight. Total four terrorists have been killed.” The dead bodies of the terrorists were later handed over to the families. In the aftermath of the encounter, the situation in the Valley largely remained calm and no untoward incident was reported, police said.