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Top JeM commander among five militants killed in two separate encounters

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In 11 encounters this month, 21 terrorists, including eight Pakistanis killed: IGP

Srinagar: Five militants including a top commander of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) were killed in two separate overnight encounters in Pulwama and Budgam districts of the valley, officials said on Sunday.

Speaking to reporters at a joint press conference in Pulwama, IGP, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, and GoC of the Army’s Victor Force Major General Prashant Srivastava said the gunfights, which broke out on Saturday, took place in Pulwama and Budgam districts of the Kashmir Valley after the security forces received specific inputs about the presence of terrorists.

Four JeM terrorists were killed in the encounter in Naira area of Pulwama in south Kashmir. One Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist, who was identified as Bilal Ahmad Khan, a resident of Chill Brass Khansahab, was killed in Chrar-i-Sharief area of central Kashmir’s Budgam, they said.

“Zahid Wani was a top commander of Jaish. His brother was involved in the Ban Plaza attack (in Jammu) and is in jail. Wani was active since 2017, involved in several killings, recruitment. After the killing of Sameer Dar, he became the district commander of JeM. In fact, he was the Jaish chief of the whole valley. It was a good operation and I want to congratulate the security forces,” Kumar told reporters.

The IGP said so far this month, there have been 11 encounters in which 21 terrorists, including eight Pakistanis, have been killed. Thirteen of these terrorists were linked with JeM.

Complimenting the security forces’ team for carrying out the operation under the most challenging circumstances, Victor Force GoC Srivastava said the Pulwama operation was not an isolated one, but a part of a series of human intelligence-based operations that have been undertaken in the jurisdiction of the Army’s 15 Corps in the past few months.

He said Wani was among the masterminds of various IED attacks that have taken place since 2017.

“With this success, we have taken a very important step in neutralising the threat of JeM in this area. With the neutralising of Wani, we have eliminated one of the masterminds of various IED attacks that have taken place over the years since 2017,” he added.

Wani was also involved in the “extensive recruitment” of young boys into militancy, Srivastava said.

“He (Wani) misled them to their untimely death and caused a lot of anguish to the families and the people residing in this area. His elimination will provide a lot of relief to the residents of the district and indeed the entire J&K,” the GoC said.

IGP Kumar said the owner of the house in Naira, where the encounter took place, will be booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Speaking about Mir, the son of the house owner, the IGP said, “This is the best example of a hybrid terrorist. There are many persons who are not listed as terrorists but they join them. Inayat was asked to surrender but he along with terrorists kept on firing at the security forces and was killed.”

The officer said the focus of the security forces was on neutralising Pakistani and hybrid terrorists.

“In the last two months, one or two FTs (foreign terrorists) have been killed in every encounter. It is a good thing for us. The FTs come down from the higher reaches in the winter to the villages. The villagers inform us, we launch operations and that FT is killed.

“It is a fact that the number of FTs and locals is equal this time. We will neutralise them… Pakistani terrorists and hybrid terrorists are a challenge for us. We are focusing on both and will keep on neutralising them,” he said.

Kumar said it is the first time that the number of terrorists has dropped below 200.

Kumar said the terrorists are getting arms and ammunition through various ways.

“You have seen in the Jammu region, there were 35 attempts (to supply arms) in which drones were seized. Many arms came via drones, they come by road as well, sometimes through infiltration. So, there are a lot of ways. But we are making our network stronger through human intelligence and technical intelligence and we will seize and neutralise the threat,” he said.

Asked about videos of terrorists brandishing various assault rifles, Kumar said every year in January-February, “the terrorists release such propaganda videos to increase recruitment”.

“They show some weapons which are not present here. But still, if such a weapon comes here, our security forces are capable enough to neutralise that threat. There is no need to worry,” he said.

Meanwhile, a police spokesman said, “During the past 12 hours two successful anti-terrorist operations were conducted by police and security forces in Pulwama and Budgam districts resulting in elimination of 05 terrorists linked with proscribed terror outfits JeM/LeT. The killed terrorists include a top JeM commander Zahid Wani and a foreign Pakistani terrorist Kafeel Bhai @Chotu,” a police spokesman said in a statement issued here today.

Giving details, the spokesman said that acting on specific information regarding presence of militants in village Naira of Pulwama, a joint cordon and search operation was launched by Police, 55RR and 182/183Bn CRPF.

“While laying down the cordon of the suspected spot, the hiding terrorists fired indiscriminately on the joint search parties. However, due to darkness and to ensure safety of the civilians trapped inside the cordon area, the joint parties exercised maximum restraint.

After evacuation of the civilians to the safer places, the fire was retaliated leading to an encounter. In the ensuing encounter, four terrorists were killed and their bodies were retrieved from the site of encounter. They have been identified as Zahid Ahmad Wani @ Uzair (a top commander) resident of Karimabad Pulwama, foreign terrorist Kafeel Bhari @ Chotu resident of Pakistan, Waheed Ahmad Reshi resident of Khadermoh Kakapora and Inayat Ahmad Mir resident of Naira Pulwama,” said the spokesman.

He said, “As per police records, the killed terrorists were linked with proscribed terror outfit JeM and were part of group involved in several terror crime cases including attacks on Police/SFs and civilian atrocities. The killed terrorist Zahid Wani was a categorized terrorist active since May-2017 and involved in several terror crime cases including attacks on security forces and civilian atrocities.  He was involved in an attack on patrolling party of 44RR at Below Rajpora, attack on patrolling party of 55RR at Tiken Pulwama, attack on patrolling party of 50RR at Parigam, grenade attack on PS Pulwama and firing upon CRPF camp at Rajpora. Besides, he was also involved in killing of one civilian Azad Ahmad Dar of Kangan Pulwama. Moreover, terrorist Zahid Wani was also instrumental in motivating the gullible youth to join terror folds and other criminal activities.”

The spokesman further said that Zahid Wani was one of the masterminds behind various IED attacks, adding. “The killed foreign terrorist Kafeel Bhai was operating in the Pulwama and Shopian belts and involved in a series of terror crime cases. The killed terrorist Waheed Ahmad was active since 2021 while as Inayat Ahmad had joined terror folds recently”.

Incriminating materials, arms and ammunition including 01 M4 rifle, 02 AK series rifles and 02 Pistols have been recovered from the site of encounter, the spokesman said.

He said that another operation was launched in village Chahr-e-Sharif area of Budgam by Police, 53RR and 181Bn CRPF. As the joint search parties were approaching towards suspected spot, they were fired upon resulting into an encounter.

“The hiding terrorist identified as Bilal Ahmad Khan resident of Chill Brass Khansahab was killed and his body was retrieved from the site of encounter. As per police records, he was a categorized terrorist and linked with proscribed terror outfit LeT (TRF) and part of groups involved in several terror crime cases, the spokesman said, adding, incriminating materials, arms ammunition including 01 AK-56 rifle, 02 AK Magazines and 05 AK rounds have been recovered from the site of encounter.


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