Army kills top 3 LeT commanders in Kashmir as focus turns to neutralising top militant leaders

In a massive crackdown launched by the security forces in Kashmir, top three Lashkar-e-Taiba commanders were killed in the last fortnight and over two dozen search operations were carried out.

The crackdown comes down after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said last month that the situation in the Valley will improve in the next two to three months, assuring that the government will get the escalated militant violence under control.

Soldiers near an encounter site in Dialgam village were two militants and two civilians were killed on Saturday. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

Soldiers near an encounter site in Dialgam village were two militants and two civilians were killed on Saturday. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

"I assure you that we will uproot Pakistan-sponsored terror from Jammu and Kashmir and establish peace in the state," Singh had said during a press conference in New Delhi.

Mufti, after a meeting with the home minister last month, had said that the situation in the will start changing in the next two months. “I understand that the coming two-three months are crucial for us. We will first restore normalcy and then talks can be initiated,” she had said.

Top officials said New Delhi has given a go-ahead to security agencies to intensify operations against the militants with priority on neutralising top commanders of the different militant outfits operating in the Valley. A local daily quoted a senior officer of the Kashmir Police as saying that taking out militant commanders is the first priority as it will create a leadership vacuum in the militant ranks.

The crackdown will also involve compiling a list of WhatsApp groups and other social media websites which are used to rally people near encounter sites.

At least 23 people, including nine militants, six civilians, seven policeman and a CRPF soldier have been killed since 15 June in the Valley.

A senior army official based in south Kashmir told Firstpost on Saturday that efforts were on to neutralise 12 most wanted militants and then turn focus on the 'less lethal' ones.

The funeral procession of Bashir Lashkeri, a top Lashkar-e-Taiba commander, in Soafshali in Kokernag Anantnag. Photo courtesy: Hilal Shah

The funeral procession of Bashir Lashkeri, a top Lashkar-e-Taiba commander, in Soafshali in Kokernag Anantnag. Photo courtesy: Hilal Shah

“I think by end of August all them would be killed,” a senior army officer told Firstpost on Saturday.

But what is worrying for the state administration is the increasing number of civilian casualties, most of whom have been killed during the counter-insurgency operation, when protesters try to engage the forces to give a free passage to the militants, despite the state government imposing Section 144 near encounter sites.

On Saturday, two civilians were killed near the site of a gunbattle in Dialgam area of Anantnag, when hundreds of people tried to help the militants flee. Residents, however, accused the forces of firing at civilians indiscriminately.

On Monday morning, when the forces cordoned off the Behmnoo village of Pulwama, residents of more than 25 villages started protesting in a cluster of villages of which Behmnoo is a part.

“A bullet hit a civilian after forces opened fire to disperse the stone-pelting protesters near the encounter site,” Vikar Ahmad, a resident of the village told Firstpost over phone.

At the time of writing this report, two militants have already been killed, while three, according to reports, remained trapped inside the house, as the gunbattle continued.

As the encounter in Pulwama went on, militants fired at a policeman and injured him critically in south Kashmir’s Anantnag near bus stand, hospital authorities said. A civilian was also injured in the incident.


Published Date: Jul 03, 2017 04:02 pm | Updated Date: Jul 03, 2017 04:02 pm