Militant killed in encounter in Bandipora

Militant killed in encounter in Bandipora

Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Hajin area

Two Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militants were killed in an ongoing encounter with security forces in the Hajin area of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district on Thursday.

Reports said the gun battle erupted after a joint search party of army’s 13-Rashtriya Rifles and police were fired upon by the militants as they launched a cordon-and-search-operation (CASO) in Parra Mohalla area of Hajin, 32 km from Srinagar.

Sources said CASO was launched as the army had specific inputs about the presence of three LeT militants in the area. “Two militants have been killed so far while one more is believed to be hiding. Reinforcements have been rushed in to tighten the cordon,” they said

The police have recovered bodies of the two militants and efforts are on to ascertain their identity, a police official said.

Hajin was once known as the epicentre of pro-government militia - Ikhwan - which broke the back of militancy in the 1990’s. From mid-1990's to later part of the last decade, Hajin was out of bounds for militants as it was the hometown of the most dreaded renegade Kuka Parray, a star anti-militancy commander.

However, over the last three years, Hajin has emerged as a bastion of the LeT as they ‘feel safe’ in the area. 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.

“LeT slain commander Abu Qasim cultivated over ground workers (OGWs) in Hajin for over two years before he got killed in October 2015. He engaged with some former Ikhwanis and suggested them to bury the past and start afresh,” a senior police officer told DH.

“Now over two dozen active LeT militants, mostly Pakistanis, are operating in the area with a strong OGW base. Militants appearing in public places in Hajin show how emboldened they are at the moment,” he revealed.

A local LeT militant Saleem Parray, police believes, is the mastermind of attacks on security forces and civilians in the area.

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