On the Tenterhooks
Yet another crucial year for the Valley as the insurgent groups re-surface
By Fayaz Wani
Srinagar: With defence minister A.K. Antony declaring 2010 as a crucial year for Kashmir, there has been a surge in militant violence in the State in the first two months. “Usually the militants used to lie-low during the winter months especially in December, January and February. However, this year the militants, in contrast have upped their violence in Kashmir even during Chilai-Kalan, the harshest winter season in the region,” a senior police officer said.

At least 72 militancy-related incidents have taken place in Jammu and Kashmir in the first two months of the new calendar year. According to police statistics, 32 militants, 14 security men, two former militants and eight civilians have lost their lives in these violent incidents. Police sources told FORCE that only six encounters had taken place in the first few months last year. “In these encounters, 10 militants were killed. The security force or civilian had not suffered any casualties in these gunfights. In comparison, 18 persons died in militant violence in Valley in the first 19 days of January. Ten were militants, four security men, two former militants and two civilians,” they said.

Shoot-out in 2010

The New Year (2010) in Kashmir was greeted with a shoot-out. The militants fired from point blank range at two Indian border guards at Soura, in the outskirts of summer capital of J&K when the duo were withdrawing cash from an Automated Teller Machine (ATM).

Operation in Sopore

The Sopore area in north Kashmir, which is very active on the militant front, witnessed yet another fierce gunfight between militants and security men on February 23. At least four army men including a captain were killed in the gunfight that caused damage to at least 70 structures. 17 houses were completely razed to rubble in the gunfight with locals alleging that armymen planted IEDs in the houses to overcome the militants’ resistance.

The security men, who had claimed that some top militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Hizbul Mujahideen were killed in the gunfight, had to cut a sorry figure as only two bodies were recovered from the debris of the damaged houses. It took security men took nearly three days to complete the search of the debris.

While the clearing operation was underway on the first day, a militant suddenly emerged from the debris and fired at the search party, killing a soldier. He was consequently killed in the retaliatory firing. The deceased security men killed in the gunfight were identified as Captain Devinder Singh Jass, Naik Selva Kumar, Paratrooper Imtiyaz Ahmad Thokar of 1 PARA and sepoy Lakhvinder Singh. Imtiyaz hailed from Shopian district of Kashmir.

The operation turned out to be a major embarrassment for the security agencies as there were reports of militants managing to escape from the area, after the initial gunfight. According to army sources eight to nine militants including some ‘high valued targets’ were hiding in the area when the combing operation was launched. The ‘high valued targets’ included Lashkar’s Kashmir chief Salahuddin.
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