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Posted at: Jan 17, 2019, 7:29 AM; last updated: Jan 17, 2019, 7:29 AM (IST)

In south Kashmir, insurgency loses anchors, recruiters

In south Kashmir, insurgency loses anchors, recruiters
Over a dozen militant commanders have been eliminated in recent months. File photo

Azhar Qadri

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, January 16

The back-to-back counter-insurgency operations in recent months eliminated more than a dozen senior commanders, some of whom had years of expertise in survival, hitting the insurgency hard as it lost its anchors, planners and recruiters.

The killing of a significant number of district-level commanders last year has now reduced the insurgency to fewer frontmen and known faces in south Kashmir – a vast region comprising four districts which became home to “new-age insurgency”.

The new-age insurgency completely overtook the previous phase of militancy in 2015-16 as a completely new generation of youth picked up arms and became distinct by shunning anonymity and revealing their identities on social media.

Among the nearly 250 militants killed last year, some had survived for over three years, more than the average age of a militant, and were instrumental in building and anchoring the new-age insurgency.

The eliminations of senior commanders have now put most of the surviving militants in south Kashmir, where the number of militants has been the highest in a decade, on the back foot and without enough experience in its ranks.

The only two exceptions —Zakir Musa of the Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind and Riyaz Naikoo of the Hizbul Mujahideen — who have survived unrelenting counter-insurgency operations are also the oldest surviving militants in south Kashmir and both of them are now nearly six years old in militancy.

Senior police officials in south Kashmir said the killing of militant commanders in recent operations had “shattered the outfits” and “firmly impacted” the lower-rung cadres.

“It definitely impacts (militant groups) because it is these people who organise, recruit and plan attacks. Now, ground soldiers are left, and they will take time to understand and learn how to do things,” a senior official said.

Of the 70 militants listed in the police records of south Kashmir in January 2016, only eight have survived. Sparked by the killing of Burhan Wani, insurgency peaked under these militants.

Over 600 militants were killed in counter-insurgency operations in the last three years. The prominent militants who are still active include Hizb field commander Naikoo, his deputy Saifullah Mir, Lashkar-e-Toiba’s Abbas Sheikh and Ansar chief Musa.

At least five militant commanders killed in recent months — Zeenat-ul-Islam of Shopian, Mohammad Sualeh of Tral, Shakir Dar of Tral, Umar Majeed of Kulgam, Adnan Lone of Awantipora —had joined the insurgency in 2015. The past three years has also seen the expansion of organisational spectrum in south Kashmir as the number of groups increased from the three active in 2016 to seven.

The Jaish-e-Mohammad, which according to police records had a limited presence three years ago in south Kashmir with only three of its cadres — Gazali, Haroon and Musa — present in Awantipora police district, has now expanded to almost all four districts.

The group’s recruitment efforts over the last two years in south Kashmir were backed by a series of fidayeen attacks, the last one taking place nearly a year ago.

On the back foot 

  • The killing of a significant number of district-level commanders last year has now reduced the insurgency to fewer frontmen and known faces in south Kashmir — a vast region comprising four districts.  
  • The eliminations of senior commanders have now put most of the surviving militants in south Kashmir on the back foot and without enough experience in its ranks.
  • Senior police officials in south Kashmir said the killing of militant commanders in recent operations had “shattered the outfits”. 

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