Srinagar district turns into a hotbed of terrorists in Kashmir
The South Kashmir districts in Kashmir valley may have witnessed the maximum number of encounters in 2021, but it is the central Kashmir district of Srinagar which has emerged as the ‘hot spot‘ of militancy as the eventful year is drawing to a close.
According to official sources in the Jammu and Kashmir Police, “Around 20 Pakistani and over 160 local terrorists were gunned down by the joint team of security forces since January 1 in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.” The highest number, 57 terrorists were eliminated in the last three months following a sudden surge in incidents of terrorist violence and targeted killings of civilians and others in the valley.
During these operations over 40 security personnel and 41 civilians also sacrificed their lives. In the last 48 hours, six terrorists, including two Pakistan nationals, have been killed in two separate encounters with the security forces in the Anantnag and Kulgam districts of Jammu and Kashmir. The Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists that were gunned down were behind the terrorist attack on a police bus in Zewan in which three policemen attained martyrdom on December 13 in Srinagar. IGP Kashmir range Vijay Kumar said, “JeM has suffered maximum damage. We have eliminated their top commanders in anti-terrorist operations. JeM module had targeted the police bus in the Zewan area of Srinagar in which three JKP men sacrificed their lives.” He further said, “In December, 24 terrorists have been eliminated including five foreign terrorists. Pakistan is desperately trying to keep the terror pot boiling.”
Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba followed by Jaish-e-Mohammad and pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist outfits suffered maximum damages during anti-terrorist operations.
According to the police, “During 2021 Srinagar witnessed more than 20 encounters in which 11 policemen and nine civilians sacrificed their lives while 20 terrorists including some of the top commanders of The Resistance Front and Lashkar-e-Taiba were eliminated by the security forces.” Lt-Gen D P Pandey, GOC Srinagar based Chinar Corps told reporters in Srinagar on Thursday that the local recruitment in terrorist outfits has come down compared to the previous years. Against 180 youth recruited last year around 130 youth have joined the ranks of different terrorist outfits in Kashmir valley, compared to the previous trend new recruits are not disclosing their identity, whosoever is joining is hiding his identity, he added. A close scrutiny of the official records also revealed that compared to the previous year the local recruitment may have recorded a marginal decline in 2021, but over 80 percent of terrorists killed in the anti-terrorist operations were local recruits.
Among them, a large number of ‘Hybrid‘ terrorists were inducted into the ranks of new terror outfits to target the security personnel in ‘cold blood‘. Hybrid terrorists have not listed terrorists and conveniently mix with the local population after carrying out an attack. Lt Gen Pandey said that the civilian population is coming forward to help them neutralize these terrorists. On the ground, Pakistani terrorists are coming to the fore to lead the operations. The senior youth in the age bracket of 21 and above are not joining the ranks, so the terrorist handlers have started recruiting youth between the age bracket of 15-16 years of age, He said.
Srinagar, the summer capital of J&k figured in the list of UNESCO’s networks of creative cities and ‘peacefully’ hosted numerous events which were attended by Parliamentarians, Union Ministers, and foreign dignitaries but during the last quarter the capital city witnessed a sudden surge in incidents of terrorist violence.
Significantly, the summer capital was declared ‘militancy’ free last year, its emergence as the ‘hot spot’ of militancy does not augur well for the joint team of security forces with their thick presence in the region.
More than the number of encounters; the nature of terror attacks, targeted killings of minorities inside school premises, street vendors from outside J&K, and cold-blooded murders of unarmed policemen from a close range warranted an urgent review of the security strategy to counter these attacks.
According to official sources, the majority of local terrorists killed in the anti-terrorist operations were aged between 20-25 and had a shelf life ranging between 1 week to 1 year.
The security forces also broke down the backbone of the terrorist outfits by arresting around 600 overground workers during the crackdown. Out of 128 local terrorists recruited this year, as per police records, as many as 73 were killed, 16 were arrested and 39 were still active.
The majority of these anti-terrorist operations were conducted across the South Kashmir districts of Pulwama, Kulgam, Shopian, and Anantnag. Last year, a total number of 203 terrorists including 166 local and 37 foreign terrorists were gunned down by the security forces while 43 civilians were killed and 92 others injured in the union territory.
In 2018, 215 terrorists were neutralized by security forces. In 2019, 152 terrorists, including 120 locals and 32 of Pakistan-origin were killed by the security forces in J&K.
Security assessment made by the various agencies claimed around 200 terrorists were still active in the region. Out of these around 110 are local and around 90 are foreign terrorists.
In 2021, terrorist outfits such as Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, and Jaish-e- Mohammad, desperately tried to spread an ‘arc of terror’ across the Jawahar tunnel in the Jammu region. Several back-to-back encounters were witnessed in the Thanamandi and Sunderbani areas of Rajouri and Poonch. Around nine terrorists were eliminated in over half a dozen encounters between July 2021 and October 2021. Nine Indian Army personnel including 2 JCO’s also sacrificed their lives in the operations launched to flush out these holed-up terrorists in the thickly forested area of Mendhar. After the sensational attack on the Air Force station in Jammu on June 27, 2021, more than one dozen incidents of drone sightings have come to light in the region. Though adequate security measures and anti-drone technology have been installed across vital buildings to prevent a repeat of such incidents, a large number of security forces remain on tenterhooks to prevent the same.
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