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Pulwama encounter: Militants use sophisticated weapons in Kashmir to attract youth, claims army, but says their numbers are dwindling

Major General BS Raju, the general officer commanding (GOC) of the Victor Force which oversees the Indian Army's operations in south Kashmir, said on Tuesday that militants had floated an M4 carbine rifle and published pictures on social media as against the traditional AK47 in order to glamourise the militancy and to attract more youth towards the insurgency in the Kashmir Valley.

Raju told Firstpost that any new weapon procured by the militants from Pakistan would require a certain amount of training. But the forces have reason to believe that newer the weapon, easier they are to handle, even for newly recruited militants.

On Monday evening, security forces killed three Jaish-e-Mohammad militants in an encounter in Aglar village of south Kashmir's Pulwama district. The militants were identified as Talha Rasheed, Muhammad Bhai, divisional commander and resident of Pakistan, and Waseem Ahmad, a resident of Drubgam village in Pulwama district.

Lance Naik Vikram Paul Singh was also killed during the gunfight, while a civilian suffered a bullet injury. After the encounter ended, the forces recovered a US-made M4 carbine rifle and a Russia-made AK74 rifle from the militants.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

It came just a few days after a photograph of a militant carrying an M4 carbine rifle had gone viral on social media in Kashmir. The gun, which is used by NATO forces in Afghanistan, is an American rifle, a shorter and lighter variant of the M16A2 assault rifle. The gun has a 370-mm barrel and a telescoping stock.

"The US-made M4 carbine is used by a lot of armies part of NATO. It's also used by the Pakistan Army's special forces," said Raju.

He, however, added that that militants have been facing a shortage of weapons, and of the 114 active militants in south Kashmir, more than 50 who have joined in the last six to seven months are carrying just a pistol. "We have reason to believe that this weapon was given by Pakistan Army to JeM cadre, and that there are five to ten such M4 carbine rifles. They have been carried by militants who recently infiltrated from Pakistan," Raja said.

One of the three militants killed in the encounter was Talha Rasheed, nephew of JeM founder Masood Azhar. Azhar, a fiery orator, was released from Jammu's Kot Balwal jail in January 2000 in exchange for passengers of the hijacked IC-814 Indian Airlines plane. Azhar was arrested in Srinagar in 1994 on charges of terrorism.

Rasheed, Masood Azhar's nephew, had infiltrated to the Kashmir Valley earlier this year, and according to JeM spokesperson Hassan Shah, was killed with two other militants on Monday.

Although Raju said that the new weapons used by the militants don't materially alter the dynamics of militancy in Kashmir, he added it's psychological warfare used by the militants to target the forces and to recruit more youth.

"There are around 5-10 such weapons in the Valley," Raju said, adding that the weapons were easy to carry. He added that though infiltration has come down in recent years, nobody can say that it has entirely been eliminated. "It's like any other weapon; it's not difficult to carry, and is just 10 cementres longer than the AK47," he said.

He added that there are around 114 active militants in south Kashmir, even though around 80-85 militants have been killed since the beginning of this year, the highest in a decade. A majority of them have joined the militancy after Hizbul commander Burhan Wani was killed in July last year.

He said the recruitment process is still on — but while it keeps fluctuating from month to month, it has come down from 15 recruits a month during July-August to about 8-9 a month currently.

"The entry of more foreign militants is a cause of concern, but the task of security forces is to create a situation whereby the administration and state governments can function together. I think we have been able to achieve that substantially," he said, referring to a massive offensive launched by the forces in south Kashmir.

Regarding the militants' claims that the security forces harass them and ransack their houses in south Kashmir, Raju said that allegations will continue because the militants are trying to show the security forces in a poor light. "But there are orders on this subject. There are very clear instructions that determine how we carry out our operations. We take harsher measures only when militants fire at us or when stone pelters try to scuttle our operations," Raju added.


Published Date: Nov 07, 2017 15:40 PM | Updated Date: Nov 07, 2017 17:57 PM

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