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Militants may shift focus to north Kashmir, say police

Jammu and Kashmir police officers and intelligence officers, coupled with fresh intelligence inputs, seem to suggest that the northern region of the Valley could be a major target area for militants

india Updated: May 25, 2018 07:10 IST
Azaan Javaid
Azaan Javaid
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kashmir,Militants,Kashmir militancy
Security personnel stand guard during an encounter between security forces and militants at Drabgam in Pulwama District of South Kashmir.(PTI File Photo)

Even as south Kashmir has become a hotbed of violent confrontation between security forces and local Kashmiri commanders, police and state intelligence are warning of a sharp rise in militant activity in north Kashmir with infiltrators from across the border attempting to gain a foothold in the region.

According to experts, senior Jammu and Kashmir police officers and intelligence officers, several incidents in north Kashmir in the past few of months, coupled with fresh intelligence inputs, seem to suggest that the northern region of the Valley could be a major target area for militants.

“A string of civilian killings that have taken place in north Kashmir is an extremely disturbing sign. These civilians were suspected to be informers for the security forces and their killings, we fear, serves a dual purpose. One, it deters locals who cooperate with authorities and two, it gives militants a platform to display their strength,” said a senior J&K police officer who asked not to be named.

On April 30, three civilians, all in their twenties, were shot dead in the Old Town of Baramulla district. On April 8, two civilians were abducted from their homes and killed in Hajin area, a few days after another civilian was abducted from his home and killed by suspected militants.

The officer added that, unlike in south Kashmir, insurgency in the north is led by Pakistani nationals who suffered a major blow last November when six militants, including the nephew of Lashkar-e-Taiba chief and alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, were killed in a gunbattle in Hajin.

Civilian killings are not the only indication of a growing militant presence in north Kashmir. The Indian Army on Thursday said it had foiled a major infiltration bid in Keran sector of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district and local police sources said at least 15 militants were attempting to cross over before being repelled by security forces.

Director general of J&K police SP Vaid said they had been receiving fresh inputs of Pakistan attempting to “foment trouble in north Kashmir”.

“Most of the militants operating in north are Pakistani nationals and we had been getting inputs all year that they are trying to gain a stronger foothold in the region. The government has ordered suspension of all counter-insurgency operation in view of the holy month of Ramzan but we are keeping a strong watch over the situation in the valley including the northern areas,” Vaid said. Other security officials said the militant network in Kashmir is likely to put the north on the radar in a bid to not give an impression that only the southern region of the valley is affected by insurgency.

Former Union home secretary GK Pillai attributed the onset of the summer season for an increase in militant activity in the north as the region is host to majority of infiltration routes. Pillai, however, added that security forces have checks and balances in place to deal with any increase in militant activity “ in south or in north”. The last two years in Kashmir were among the bloodiest in its history as the government launched an intense crackdown on the local militancy, most notably dismantling the unit led by Burhan Wani. According to government estimates, over 660 people — militants, civilians and security personnel — died during this period, an annual spike of more than 167% when compared to 2015.

First Published: May 25, 2018 07:10 IST