In last 4 weeks 15 militants were killed around underground bunkers they had dug in orchards, along shallow streams
Srinagar, December 25:
Top security official say credible and accurate information they receive in abundance about hiding places of militants was forcing the rebels to stay together in big groups in underground cave-like hideouts dug in orchards and along banks of shallow streams.
The officials however claim stepped up human intelligence was helping government forces detect and locate the underground militant hideouts too in southern Kashmir.
Since November 24, three major encounters between militants and government forces occurred in open orchards in Pulwama and Anantnag districts, resulting in killing of 15 militants including top commanders of Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hizbul Mujahideen and the Ansaar-Gazwatul Hind (AGH).
Significantly, all these firefights erupted around underground hideouts the militants had dug in open areas where they stayed in groups of five or six.
According to security officials, the first such encounter with militants in the open it turned out they had dug up a hideout in an orchard using a tin shed as cover at Shalgund-Satkipora village in southern Anantnag district.
Six militants were killed there, including top LeT commander Azad Malik alias Dada.
A similar encounter took place in Sirnoo village of Pulwama where three militants were killed. They were found hiding in an underground hideout in an orchard.
However, seven civilians were killed in firing by government forces during disturbances after that gun battle that also left a soldier dead.
Among the slain was the Hizb commander Zahoor Thokar, who had deserted army to join the militant group last year.
The third such encounter during the last four weeks, militants were found to have built a hideout in a “cave-like structure” in Midoora village of Tral, in Pulwama district.
Six AGH militants, including the group’s deputy chief Soliah were killed.
A top security official said the group had made the hideout near a shallow stream.
“Except Sirnoo operations, the other two were conducted in a clean manner without any collateral damage,” an said official privy to operational details of that encounter.
“The beauty of Satkipora and Midoora operations was they were conducted on the basis of credible lead where militants hardly were given time to retaliate.”
A top police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity said after killing of 250 militants this year so far, the rebels do not trust anybody now for their safe stay.
“So lack of accommodation, their mistrust on the people is pushing them to underground hideouts,” he said.
“Militants are feeling unsafe by taking shelter in residential houses. The fact is that if they get a house to hide, why they need an orchard to dig. Of late, they have started to stay together in the groups of five to six in the underground bunkers. Sometimes, our intelligence works and we corner them.”
Other officers however differ from this assessment and claim.
Inspector general of police (operations) for CRPF, Zulfikar Hassan said there was no change in strategy by the militants as hideouts have been found on mountain tops, orchards, forests earlier too.
“But yes, I would say that increased human intelligence is pushing them to shift from civilian population to orchards. What is important is that we are able to get them in the new hide-outs too,” Hassan said.
“Of late, the flow of information based on credible leads has increased manifold.”
A source in the army also said that “over the past few months, human and technical inputs about the militant presence in a particular area” started pouring in fast.
“That is the reason we are able to conduct very successful operations against them (militants) irrespective of the fact whether they stay in residential houses or an underground hideout in orchards,” the army officer said.
Among the 250 militants killed this year so far were 15 top commanders of LeT, Hizb and Jaish-e-Muhammad.
Security officials say, the biggest success of 2018 for the government forces was the killing of top LeT Naveed Jatt in a firefight at Chattergam on the outskirts of Srinagar.