Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir police killed three militants in an encounter in Anantnag district of south Kashmir early on Monday, including a dropout engineering student Eesa Fazli, who had joined Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TuM) in August last year.
He was seeking to establish an Islamic State (IS) network in Kashmir and had been posting videos and messages of the global militant outfit on social networking sites, espousing their ideology.
During the late night encounter, the police gunned down three militants – including Fazli, of the Soura area of Srinagar, and Syed Owais, of Kokernag. The identity of the third militant is yet to be ascertained. Police officials said that Owais was active with the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) outfit over the last four months.
Director general of police SP Vaid said that Fazli was associated with the TuM militant outfit, but was "ideologically inclined to IS". "He was active on social networking sites and was fanning the ideology of the militant outfit."
Vaid said that unlike Hizbul, which has a higher strength of militants, the TuM militants were only a few in number.
Police officials said that Fazli, who had dropped out of the BTech course at the Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University (BGBSU), was active with TuM. He was from a well-to-do family of Srinagar and his father is a principal in the education department. A top police source said that TuM has a strength of only four militants and that Fazli was in touch with its commander Dawood Mir, of HMT area of Srinagar, before he joined militancy.
Of nearly 250 militants who are presently active in Kashmir, around 60 percent are associated with Hizbul, a police official said, adding that "though we have launched many successful encounters this year, the number of militants remains high due to constant recruitment."
Earlier Fazli had also released a video calling upon the people of Kashmir to "wage a war" against "infidels" and asked them not to pin hope on global organisations like the United Nations. He had also quoted chapters of the Quran in the video to state that the people of Kashmir will gain victory in their fight "of holy war"
In another video, he had referred to the condition of Muslims in Syria, Iraq and Myanmar, saying that "atrocities were committed on Muslims" there. He had also called upon the youth to join militancy.
Fazli's ideological affinity was further revealed after the IS recently claimed responsibility for an attack on the residence of top Hurriyat leader Fazal Haq Qureshi. A policeman was killed as militants attacked the residence of the separatist leader at Soura in Srinagar and snatched away his service weapon. "Assassinated an element of police in firing near the city of Srinagar in Kashmir," Amaq News Agency of the IS had claimed.
A police spokesman pointed to the involvement of Fazli in the attack on the separatist leader's house. He said that among the militants killed was also the "one involved in a recent attack on a guard post at Soura in which one police constable" was killed. "In this connection, a case has been registered and an investigation has been started under the relevant provisions of the law by the police," he added.
Senior superintendent of police (SSP) Srinagar, Imtiyaz Ismail Parray, also confirmed that Fazli was the one who had carried out the attack on the security post.
Police officials said that of the global militant outfits, only Al-Qaeda has been able to establish itself in Kashmir through its affiliate Ansar Ghazwatul Hind, which is headed by Zakir Musa. Though IS flags were hoisted in different places by the Valley youth, police officials ruled out its presence in Kashmir. They added that Fazli may have been planning to claim an association with the IS.
Officials further said that Sunday's encounter revealed that militants are working in tandem, which is unlike the situation in the 1990s when each outfit worked independently. "Though Fazli was associated with the TuM, he was also moving around with Hizbul militants," said a police official, adding that the "trend of militants now working in tandem has become more common."
Police officials said that they pursued "credible leads of the presence of militants" in Hakoora area of Anantnag district and immediately started a cordon. "While the search was going on, the hiding militants fired upon the search party. The fire was retaliated by the security forces, ensuing an encounter. In the said encounter, three militants were killed. In the process, arms and ammunition, which include AK-47 rifles, pistols, hand grenades etc were recovered from the encounter site while in the incident no collateral damage has taken place," a police official said.
Senior superintendent of police Anantnag, Altaf Ahmad Khan, said that the encounter started late in the night after forces launched a cordon by acting on specific information. "We cordoned off a house in which the militants were holed up. We had specific information about the presence of militants in a particular house and we switched on all the lights, hoping that militants would understand that they are under cordon. But they tried to break the cordon and got killed in the shootout."
He said that the firefight lasted for only 15 minutes, adding that, "We are investigating whether the house was used a permanent hideout by the militants."
Updated Date: Mar 12, 2018 18:09 PM