Two days after four militants were killed in Tral, in Pulwama district of South Kashmir, the Jammu and Kashmir Police on Thursday identified one of them as Mufti Yasir, the ‘operational commander’ of the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM). Police sources said Yasir was the personal security officer of JeM’s Pakistan-based chief Masood Azhar.
“Operational commander of JeM Mufti Yasir was among those killed in joint operation in upper reaches of Tral,” tweeted J&K’s Director General of Police (DGP) S P Vaid, along with a photograph which showed an armed Yasir with Masood Azhar.
“This is a big elimination,” Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kashmir, S P Pani told The Indian Express. “He was definitely a very big commander. He was an important person (in JeM),” he said.
Four militants, a soldier and a policeman were killed in an encounter in Laam forest of Tral on Tuesday. While two of the militants were identified as locals, police had said the other two were foreigners “whose identity was being ascertained”.
Yasir is the fifth top JeM commander to be killed since June last year. Yasir had replaced Mufti Waqas, a top JeM commander who was killed in a brief encounter in Letpora village in South Kashmir in March this year. Noor Trali, Masood Azhar’s nephew Talha Rashid and Mehmood Bhai were among the other top militants killed. Waqas and Trali were reported to be behind some of the major attacks in the Valley.
In its latest edition, JeM’s mouthpiece Al Qalam has said that 37 of its militants were killed in Kashmir since June last year.
“We have mitigated some serious attacks by our sustained operations against Jaish,” IGP Pani said. “They had engineered a spike in violence… we have come down on them. There has been no let-up. The sustained campaign against Jaish has not accentuated violence. Otherwise, they would have really escalated the violence,” he said.
Police sources said JeM has set up its base in Pulwama district. “They have presence in parts of Anantnag and Budgam as well,” said a police officer.
J&K Police sees the resurgence of JeM in the Valley as a tactical shift by Pakistan to divert international pressure and give “breathing space” to Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Hizbul Mujahideen, who suffered heavy losses last year.
“The reason for Jaish-e-Muhammad coming to the forefront (of militancy in the Valley) may be due to the increased and repeated international scrutiny of LeT and its chief,” said a recent J&K Police report. “The recent development of Pakistan declaring Hafiz Saeed a terrorist under global pressure and reports that Pakistan government is taking over all the facilities, offices and seminaries that belong to JuD (Jamaat-ud-Dawah) and FIF (Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation), the LeT might lessen its role by providing logistical support to Jaish for executing attacks.”