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Thursday, January 27, 2022

In Valley, police the prime target, Srinagar main stage

🔴 Data show that for the first time in a year, the number of police personnel killed by militants has outnumbered the collective toll of other security personnel who were targeted in the Valley: 19 of the 27 killed.

Written by Bashaarat Masood | Srinagar |
Updated: December 16, 2021 7:48:34 am
Kashmir militancy, Srinagar news, Kashmir news, militant attacks, Jammu and Kashmir news, Jammu and Kashmir police, Militant news, Indian Express, India news, current affairs, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India NewsSecurity personnel during an encounter with militants at Hyderpora, in Srinagar, on November 15, 2021. (PTI)

THE MILITANCY in Kashmir is witnessing two key shifts in pattern: J&K Police have emerged as the prime target and the main stage of attacks has shifted from South Kashmir to Srinagar city over the past few months, senior officers told The Indian Express.

Official data from 2021 show that for the first time in a year, the number of police personnel killed by militants has outnumbered the collective toll of other security personnel who were targeted in the Valley: 19 of the 27 killed.

Of the 40 security personnel killed in J&K this year, 20 are from the police. In 2019, of the 83 security personnel killed in J&K, 11 belonged to the police. And in 2020, there were 16 police personnel among 60 security forces killed by militants in J&K.

“There is a visible change in the militant strategy,” said a police officer. “Earlier, they (militants) would regularly warn police of dire consequences but refrained from targeting police personnel owing to social pressures at the local level. But that is changing now.”

Another senior officer attributed the growing attacks to a “lack of initiative” from the force. “The Army and CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) have taken a number of steps to pre-empt militant attacks and have successfully avoided them. The police, however, lack such initiative and have become easy targets for militants,” the officer said.

Referring to Monday’s attack on a police bus in Srinagar that killed three, the officer said: “It could have been avoided if the police had taken all the usual precautions that other forces take. For instance, even in the case of such an attack, the casualties could have been minimised had the police personnel been travelling in a bulletproof bus.”

The other major worry for the security set-up is the shifting base of militancy in the Valley.

After moving from south to north Kashmir and back all these years, militants are now focusing on Srinagar city. Police sources say this strategy was mapped out by Abass Sheikh, the slain militant commander of The Resistance Force (TRF). They say that Sheikh, who was killed in a gunfight in Srinagar in August, “made every effort to revive militancy in the city and set up a number of sleeper cells before his death”.

“He (Abass Sheikh) made it a game of wits and nerves. He focused on optics, to send the message that the capital city was not beyond the reach of militants,” said a senior officer. “There seems to be a conscious effort from the militants to come to the limelight. There is no better place for that than Srinagar. Besides, Srinagar is a big city, which makes it easier for the militants to hide.”

This shift is sharp since it was in autumn of 2020 that the police had declared Srinagar a militancy-free district. But over the past three months alone, it has witnessed at least nine gunfights in which 15 militants were killed.

In early October, two civilians were killed by militants in Srinagar followed by a string of attacks in which three local residents from minority communities and two migrant street vendors were killed.

According to police sources, a sizable number of militants are based in Srinagar but those from South Kashmir also enter the city to carry out attacks. “The militants who struck the police bus in Zewan on Monday had come from South Kashmir and moved back after the attack,” the sources said.

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