'8 commanders among 91 militants killed since January in Kashmir'

Top officials on Saturday asserted that the strategy to conduct “pre-dawn anti-militancy operations” in Kashmir has worked well.

They said that as many as 91 militants, including top eight commanders of Hizbul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Muhammad and Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, were killed in “well-coordinated operations” since January this year. 

According to a security expert, a joint and coordinated strategy by Police, Army and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to conduct anti-militancy operations was framed in early January this year. “And with the help of increased human intelligence it was decided to launch pre-dawn operations,” he said.

“We wanted to keep a surprise element for militants by catching them at a time when they would expect us the least. And midnight cordons were the best thing to zero in on the militant hideouts,” said a security official, who is part of the counter-insurgency grid. 

“Ninety per cent of the operations were clean and conducted in a most professional manner where there was no collateral damage,” the officer, privy to the figures of slain militants revealed. “The reason to conduct midnight operations and to conclude the same by pre-dawn timing was to avoid confrontation with the protesting youth, who otherwise would get closer to the encounter sites. In most of the anti-militancy operations, militants were caught totally unaware of the cordon, a big advantage for the forces,” he claimed.

“The slain commanders include the ones who were part of the deadly suicide attack on the security  forces at Lethpora, Pulwama on 14 February this year. The attack left 40 CRPF men dead. Today, there is no Jaish commander active in Kashmir. There may be some Jaish militants active in south and north Kashmir parts who are already on the radar,” he said.

The officer said that “specialty of the operations conducted by the security forces” this year was apart from the local militants, all the foreign militants were killed in the hinterland. “No foreign militant was killed on LoC or while crossing over,” he said.

Another security expert said that with the killing of top leadership of Hizb, Jaish, Lashkar and now AGH, a major dent has been caused to the local militant recruitment, first time since 2017. This year, 40 youth joined various militant ranks and the figure is lowest since 2017.

“Among the new recruits, five were killed, three apprehended and four returned,” he said.

The officer said that among the surviving militant commanders, Hizb’s chief operational commander Riyaz Naikoo is the only one left now as far as the militant leadership is concerned.

He, however, refused to divulge the number of active militants in Kashmir at present.