Around 150 militants operating in ‘fragile’ south Kashmir

Srinagar: There are around 150 militants operating in south Kashmir and mostly are locals, army said on Saturday.

Addressing media after the culmination of a gunfight at Tral, leading to the killing of six militants, army’s GOC Victor Force, Major General Jhonson P Mathew said the situation in South Kashmir was “stable but fragile.”

“We had this operation today morning in the Tral region of Guri Kadal jointly by the army, CRPF and police.

“It was a hideout which was prepared by the militants outside the village and by around first light we had the contact with the militants. It was a clean operation in which finally six militants were killed,” he said.

Among six militants killed in the gunfight, he said, one was Soliha Mohammad Akhoon who was known to be the deputy commander of Ansar Gazwatul Hind led by Zakir Musa, a known militant commander.

“Losing six militants is a set back as we were tracking their movement for quite a while. There were many anti-national activities in the region and they were spreading (militancy) in this region and certainly with this operation we have broken their back,” he said.

Regarding the recruiting of militants by Zakir Musa, the army commander said: “He was initially with HM and thereafter he formed this group which initially was thought to align with the Al-Qaida. However, Indian agencies are yet to confirm his allegiance to any other group outside the country. (His) group called Gazwat-ul-Hindh as well as ISJK both seemed to be alliance and on the ideology of Islamic caliphate. He has been recruiting young boys in this area and carrying on with these activities of Gazwatul Hindh.”

He said that social media was one of the major tools being used by the militants to “propaganda their ideology and to reach the young minds and to corrupt the young minds of the Valley.”

Regarding the situation in South Kashmir, he said, somebody else has described it as stable but fragile. “And I agree with this it is still fragile,” he said.

The army commander said that there are many factors about the youths who are joining militancy ranks, but “one certainly is the radicalization and which we all talk about another is alienation and more important than that is proxy war that is being played out here by our neighbor Pakistan and that is a major factor for which youngsters going wayward and getting recruited into this unending spiral of violence.”

“Our appeal to them always had been to shun violence whatever grievances they have. There is a government and democratic process in place. They need to use the process and shun the gun culture,” he said, adding, “We have more than 150 militants who are operating south region currently and mostly are local and even few number of Pakistani also who are operating this area.”

He said the army was here to conduct the counter militant operations and “we will continue with our operations but at the same time, we are appealing to the youngsters to shun the gun culture, surrender and even during operations we give an opportunity to the militants to so that they can live a happy life.” (GNS)