Mehmood Bhai's killing a blow to militancy in Kashmir

The killing of Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT) commander Mehmood Bhai, the nephew of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, is a major setback not just for the LeT but also for militancy in Kashmir.

Mehmood is the second Pakistani commander after Talha Rasheed, nephew of Pakistan based Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Moulana Masood Azhar, who has been eliminated by the security forces in Kashmir this month.

"Mehmood Bhai was popular in Hajin area of north Kashmir, where he was killed today, and had managed to establish a strong network on ground because of which the security forces were facing lot of resistance. He engaged with some former Ikhwanis (government gunmen) and suggested to them to bury the past and start afresh," a senior police officer told DH.

Hajin, 32 kms from Srinagar, was once known as the epicentre of pro-government militia - Ikhwan - who broke the back of militancy in the 1990s. From mid '90s to later part of last decade, Hajin was out of bounds for militants as it was the home town of the most dreaded renegade Kuka Parray, a star anti-militancy commander.

"Away from the limelight in south Kashmir, Mehmood Bhai managed to establish a strong network on ground in Hajin in recent months. His killing will surely prove a game changer in Hajin as no militant wields so much support in the area as Mehmood had due to his relation with Lakhvi," the officer said.

The vast swathes of orchards, huge clusters of villages, close proximity to Srinagar on south and Bandipora on north makes Hajin an important transit point for militants as it is also connected to the highway.

'Operation allout' success

Nearly 180 militants, including top commanders Sabzar Bhat, Junaid Matoo, Ayoub Lelhari, Bashir Lashkari, Abu Dujana, Mehmood Gaznavi, Umer Khalid, Qayoom Najar, Talha Rasheed and now Mehmood Bhai, have been killed by the security forces this year, which is highest in the last decade. The security forces are going after militants as part of operation "hunt down" and on the basis of a "hit list" of militants.

"There is tremendous success as far as 'operation allout' is concerned. The credit goes to the officers and jawans who work in the field", state police chief Shesh Pal Vaid had said last week.

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