The Pulwama highway bombing which was the "deadliest attack" on security forces in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989 when insurgency first erupted in the Valley has led to security forces launching combat ops against Maulana Masood Azhar’s outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) like never before. Since 14 February, 2019, at least 14 among total 18 militants killed were from Jaish.
It was the 'fidayeen' outfit's local recruit — a sawmill apprentice and a school dropout Aadil Ahmad Dar — who rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into the paramilitary convoy at Lethpora in the afternoon of 14 February killing 40 CRPF men.
On heels of that rattling attack, the hunt for JeM militants has only grown manifold in the Valley.
On Monday, the counter-insurgency grid of the region said that they killed the "main conspirator" of the deadly suicide attack.
Identified as an electrician from Tral — the home address of the former Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani — Mudasir Khan was killed along with his two associates in a gunfight that broke out on Sunday. Khan was dubbed as the person who would recruit young boys into the JeM fold.
Earlier, within 100 hours of the suicide attack, the forces killed the"mastermind" — Kamran from Pakistan, in a Pulwama gunfight that lasted over 17 hours.
"Forces have killed 18 militants in the past fortnight of which 14 belonged to Jaish, two to Lashkar-e-Taiba and two to Hizbul Mujahideen," IGP Kashmir SP Pani said.
Post-Pulwama, Kashmir Valley is witnessing one of the biggest coordinated counter-insurgency operations in recent years. Its main targets are all the 70 to 80 JeM militants operating in the Valley.
"I won’t call it avenge," said Inspector-General, Operations, CRPF, Zulfikar Hussain, "But it is a continuous process."
But, unlike Kashmiri militants who are ill-trained and die within an hour of a gunfight, the JeM militants have proved to be 'much lethal', 'battle-hardened' and 'formidable opponents' for security forces in the Valley.
"They are ruthless for their sheer ability to mount fidayeen attack," one senior officer said.
"Their modus operandi gives you a glimpse of their radicalised mindset. They don’t believe in survival tactics unlike others and die while inflicting major damage on their adversaries," the officer added.
These days, whenever a gunfight breaks out between forces and JeM militants in Kashmir, it stretches for long hours, if not days.
"The biggest problem," says General Officer Commanding (GoC) of the Indian Army’s Srinagar-based 15 Corps, Lt Gen KJS Dhillon, "is the forces take casualties in the initial stage of the encounter when trying to evacuate the civilians from the congested localities. We suffer casualties because we expose ourselves."
Last year, at least 250 militants were killed, the majority of them being Kashmiris, in gunfights that did not last more than five hours. Unlike their Pakistani counterparts, the killed Kashmiri militants were locally trained and "least skilled in guerrilla warfare", security officials say.
"The Pakistani militants go through months of arms training before entering the valley," officials added.
A recent gunfight in Baba Gund village in Handwara area lasted for more than 70 hours after which two militants were killed. On 23 February, two militants from JeM were killed in Warpora area of Sopore. The encounter lasted for more than twenty hours.
"The militants first fired from a house and when forces targeted that house, within minutes, they were firing from another. The militants survived so long because they changed locations with ease," Bashir Ahmed Bhat, a school teacher, and a resident of Baba Gund area, who was stranded in the village mosque during the encounter along with 16 others civilians, said.
“It perhaps shows their level of training to engage with the second largest standing army in the world," he added.
Although the Indian army’s wing of the counter-insurgency force has dealt with many fidayeen attacks along the Line of Control, the location within the valley proves to be a hitch for them, a GoC-level officer recently said.
"Most of these operations take place in residential areas, where our priority is to safeguard the civilians," he said, adding, "During this process, when the first contact is established, the casualties happen."
But given the rate at which JeM militants are being killed in combat operations at the moment makes it certain that they are the top targets for security forces in the Valley.
“These militants need to be tackled at the earliest, lest their ruthless militant methods further create havoc around,” a senior police officer said.
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Updated Date: Mar 14, 2019 11:08:27 IST