Two militants of Ansar Gazwat-ul-Hind (AuGH), an affiliate of Al Qaeda in Kashmir, were killed in an encounter with security forces in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district on Monday.
The gunfight erupted early Monday morning after army’s 34-Rashtriya Rifles and J&K police launched a cordon-and search-operation at Mirwani Damhal, Hanjipora, Kulgam, 100 kms from Srinagar, following an input about the presence of two to three militants in the area, reports said.
An official said that as the militants got trapped, security forces asked them to surrender. However, they opened fire, which was retaliated triggering an encounter, he said, adding that two militants were killed in the operation
Inspector General Police (IGP) Kashmir, Vijay Kumar while confirming the killing of two militants in the encounter said the identity of the slain was yet to be ascertained.
However, sources said the slain militants were Adil Wani alias Abu Ibrahim and Shaheen Thoker, who belonged to the AuGH. Both Wani and Thoker hailed from the neighbouring Shopian district, they said. Wani was active from September 2017 while Thoker joined militancy last August.
On October 23, J&K police chief Dilbagh Singh had claimed that AuGH had been wiped out from Kashmir with the killing of three local militants, including the group’s top commander Hamid Lelhari. After the killing of AuGH chief Zakir Musa last year, command of the terror outfit was given to Lelhari.
However, a senior police officer told DH there is some indication that AuGH has succeeded in generating a preliminary base of militants. “The AuGH ideology has takers in Kashmir, especially young radicalized youth. In the coming months there is every possibility that more local youth may join the group,” the officer warned.
Since the beginning of this year 75 have been killed across Kashmir in dozens of encounters with security forces. 154 militants were killed in gun battles across Kashmir in the first seven months of 2019.
In the next five months, only 20 militants were neutralized by the security forces as anti-insurgency operations almost came to a halt as security and communication clampdown was imposed to prevent civilian protests in the wake of revocation of Article 370 on August 5.
Last week J Dilbagh Singh said that less than 240 militants were active in Kashmir.