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4 LeT militants killed, soldier injured in Shopian encounter

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19 terrorists killed in nine encounters; three arrested till date this year: IGP

Srinagar: Four Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants were killed in an encounter with security forces on Monday in Shopian district of south Kashmir, police said.

Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Manihal area of the district around midnight, following information about the presence of militants there, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Vijay Kumar said.

He said the militants refused repeated offers of surrender and opened fire at the forces.

“We appealed to them to surrender and brought their families, including wife and a four-year-old child of a militant, to appeal to them to surrender. But they refused,” he said.

Kumar said after the militants opened fire at the security forces, there was a gunbattle in which four militants were killed.

“All the four were categorised militants belonging to LeT outfit. Although, they call themselves as Lashkar-e-Mustafa, they are listed as LeT militants in our records and all these names, including TRF (The Resistance Front) are the offshoots of the LeT or Jaish-e-Mohammad,” he said.

The IGP said three pistols and an AK rifle was recovered from the site of the encounter.

The militants were identified as Rayees Ahmad Bhat, who was active since October last year; Amir Shafi Mir, active since last month; Raqib Ahmad Malik, active since December last year, and Aftab Ahmad Wani, active since November last year.

An Army soldier was injured in the encounter and is undergoing treatment at a hospital here, he added.

The IGP said so far this year nine encounters have taken place in the Valley with most of them – eight – in south Kashmir, while one in the north.

In these nine encounters, 19 militants have been killed, “out of which nine alone were from Shopian district and two were top commanders,” Kumar said.

He said 18 youths have joined the militant ranks this year, out of which five have been killed in various encounters and three have been arrested.

“The rest are still active and we have been appealing to their parents to bring them back to the mainstream. Some may return. Also, seven youth who had joined the militancy have been brought back with the help of their families. The parents have increased their trust in the security forces,” he added.

Kumar said Pakistan was not refraining from its activities and was using social media for “inciting and radicalising youth to join militancy”.

“Also, drugs are coming from Pakistan and our youth are being destroyed. I appeal the parents to take care of their children and if anyone is using drugs, then counsel him. They can approach the Police’s drug de-addiction centre and we will help them,” he said.

“The youth not only join militancy due to drugs but get involved in other social evils and crimes,” he added.

The IGP said the police will render all help to those youth who surrender their arms and leave militancy.

“I appeal to those who have taken up arms to surrender whether before an encounter or even during it. We will provide all possible help, you will be accepted and will not face any problem,” he said.

Referring to the security situation in the Valley, the IGP said the focus of the security forces was to maintain an atmosphere of peace.

“We would like to maintain two things. The schools and colleges should not be closed which can happen only when there is no incident and the atmosphere is good. Second, we would like to create such an atmosphere that tourists come here in huge numbers so that people here get employment and earn money,” he said.

Kumar said while there has been a decline in the number of stone-pelting incidents, especially near the encounter sites, it was a larger issue than militancy as it involves the society and leads to disruption in day-to-day activities.

The IGP further said that fool-proof security arrangements, including round-the-clock monitoring using CCTV cameras and drones, will be in place for the Amarnath Yatra this year to ensure an incident-free pilgrimage, police said on Monday.

“We are fully ready for the summer months. We have devised a plan and checkpoints will be increased, some camps will be shifted, and as we will get additional force after elections (in some states of the country), we will plug all the gaps… Pilgrims will not face any problems,” Kumar said.

The 56-day Yatra to the 3,880-metre-high cave shrine of Amarnath in the south Kashmir Himalayas is scheduled to start from the twin routes of Pahalgam and Baltal on June 28 and culminate on August 22.

On the threat of sticky bombs and IEDs, the IG said Yatra routes would be fully sanitised, and there would be 24-hour patrolling and nakas.

“This time the (Yatra) routes will not be left unsecured even during the night. There will be deployment, mobile bunker vehicle patrolling and NVD (night vision devices), and drones will also be used 24 hours,” he said.

Describing sticky bombs as a problem but “not a big worry”, Kumar said security vehicles will be fitted with 360-degree cameras and distance will be maintained with civilian vehicles.

“I am sure the public will support us fully. There will be a time factor also – a time frame for the Yatra vehicles. They will not be allowed in a mix-way,” he said, adding the Yatra will be monitored through CCTV cameras and drones round-the-clock.

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