In a blow to the Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, an outfit headed by Zakir Musa, six militants including its deputy chief were killed in an encounter between security forces and militants in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Saturday morning.
The killings are believed to have virtually wiped out the militant outfit, which claims to be a local affiliate of al-Qaeda.
A J&K Police spokesperson said that based on inputs about presence of militants in the Arampora area of Tral in Pulwama district, a cordon and search operation was launched in the morning by the joint forces. “As the searches were going on, the search party was fired upon by the terrorists. They retaliated, leading to a gunfight,” the spokesperson said.
In the ensuing encounter, six militants, all locals, were killed and their bodies were retrieved from the encounter site. Pointing out that no collateral damage had taken place during the encounter and the operation was “clean”, IGP, Kashmir, S P Pani told The Sunday Express, “We confirm that this (group) was part of Zakir’s group. Six terrorists have been eliminated… We again urge people that encounter site is a prohibited zone and we appeal not to venture into it.”
Sources said the area where the encounter took place was a hideout in an orchard.
The slain militants were identified as Soliha Mohammad Akhoon, Faisal, Nadeem Ahmad Sofi, Rasiq Mir, Rouf and Umar. Police said all belonged to villages in Tral. While four of them were new recruits and had joined the outfit only this year, the other two had become militants several years ago.
A former Hizbul Mujahideen commander who was a close aide of Burhan Wani, Zakir Musa had quit the outfit in May 2017 and claimed to head a local affiliate of al-Qaeda, which he named Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind. Recently, the Commander of Srinagar-based 15 corps, Lt Gen A K Bhatt, had told The Sunday Express that Musa had been spotted by the Army in Tral.
Akhoon was the deputy chief of the Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind. His funeral on Saturday afternoon drew hundreds of people in his village Arampora.
The killing of Soliha is a second blow to the Ansar, after its member, Shakir Hassan Dar, was killed in an operation by security forces in South Kashmir last month.
Police said all the six militants were active in Pulwama and wanted for involvement in various “terror” crimes, “including attack on security establishments and civilian atrocities”. The spokesperson said Rasiq had a history of crime records going back five years.