However, J&K police data suggest 34 new faces have joined the ranks of militants
Even as the joint combing operation, ‘Operation All-Out’, has succeeded in killing 35 militants in south Kashmir since April, the police’s counter-insurgency data suggest 34 new faces have joined the ranks.
Police data, accessed by The Hindu, portray a grim picture of south Kashmir’s four districts despite “great successes” made by the security forces by killing eight top commanders of Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
“We have reports of 34 new faces joining the militants ranks of both Hizb and LeT in south Kashmir since April when the operation against active militants was launched,” said a top counter-insurgency police officer.
He said militant groups in the highly volatile of district of Pulwama, adjacent to Srinagar, had roped in 21 new youths into their ranks. “Since April, 20 militants were killed in Pulwama,” he said.
As many as 224 people, including 136 militants, were killed in operations in Kashmir so far this year. The Operation All-Out, launched in April in the wake of growing militant activities in south Kashmir, saw June witnessing highest 48 deaths, including 30 militants and 15 security forces.
The police claim that the worrying trend is that youth from urban pockets of Bijbehara, Anantnag, Kokernag and Srinagar “are joining the militant ranks”.
“Earlier, rural pockets of Shopian, Kulgam and Kareemabad and Kakpora were hubs of militants. Recruits from more urbane pockets have picked up too,” said the police official.
According to the police, new pictures of armed youth posted by the militant outfits on the social media, including Instagram, suggest “many of these recruits are around 20s.”
The police, however, expressed satisfaction with the ongoing operation that saw “elimination of entire militant leadership” in south Kashmir.
“Recruiters and strategists like Abu Dujana, Sabzar Bhat, Junaid Matto, Yasin Ittoo and Bashir Lashkari have already been killed,” said the police official.
The Army is now zeroing in on “Hizb ideologue Riyaz Naikoo” and encounter specialists Wasim Shah and Sadam Padder of Shopian.
Since April, over 16 foreign militants have joined the depleting militant ranks in south Kashmir, especially the LeT, by crossing into the north Kashmir valley through the Line of Control.
“We have completely blunted the striking capability of the militant groups in south Kashmir. All of them are on the run,” said another police official.