Four militants, including the Islamic State Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK) chief, a policeman and a civilian, were killed in a fierce gunfight between security forces and ultras in Srigufwara area of south Kashmir’s Anantnag district on Friday.
Jammu and Kashmir Police chief Shesh Pal Vaid confirmed the killing of the four militants in the encounter. “The slain terrorists were reportedly affiliated to ISJK (Islamic State Jammu and Kashmir),” he tweeted.
Police identified one of the militants as Dawood, a resident of Srinagar, who was heading the ISJK, an affiliate of international terror group Islamic State (IS).
This is the first official confirmation of any IS militant being killed in Kashmir. The Centre had so far maintained that IS was not active in the Valley.
In May 2017, the IS had said on its website that its Indian affiliate ‘Ansar Gazwatul Hind’ was being headed by Zakir Musa, who quit the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen outfit earlier. Sources said eight to 10 local militants are affiliated with the ISJK.
A civilian and a policeman were also killed while two army personnel were injured in the encounter that began in Srigufwara area on Friday morning. The slain civilian was identified as Muhammad Yousuf Rather, the owner of the house where the militants were hiding. His wife Hafeeza is battling for life at SKIMS Hospital in Srinagar.
Reports said youth threw stones on security forces to disrupt the operation against the besieged militants. The forces responded by firing live ammunition, tear gas and pellets, resulting in injuries to at least 10 civilian protesters. One of the injured civilians, identified as Ubaid Ahmad, suffered a bullet injury on his neck. He was shifted to a hospital where his condition remains critical.
Sources said security forces cordoned off the adjoining Mehand and Khusrai Kalan villages as they believe some militants have fled following the gunfight.
The cordon and search operations (CASO) against militants — suspended by the Centre for a month during Ramzan — had resumed after Eid last week. On Tuesday, three Jaish-e-Mohammad militants were killed in Tral area of the neighbouring Pulwama district.
There are reports that the army plans to launch a major crackdown on militants, who had expanded their operations during the ceasefire. With governor's rule imposed in the state after the fall of the PDP-BJP alliance, the army will go after the militants hard.
The Union Home Ministry has approved the induction of elite National Security Guards (NSG) commandos to take part in anti-militancy operations in Kashmir. Over a dozen commandos are already camping at the Border Security Force camp at Humhma, on the outskirts of Srinagar city, where they are being trained to acclimatise themselves with anti-militancy operations.
Officials say the participation of NSG commandos in anti-militancy operations would help reduce casualties among security forces.