November bloodiest month in Kashmir, 37 rebels including 9 top commanders killed

With 37 militants killed in encounters across Kashmir, November has been the bloodiest month of this year for the insurgents. Among the militants killed this month, nine were top commanders, including Lashkar-e-Taiba’s face Naveed Jatt, who was shot dead on Wednesday in Budgam district.

As per official figures, 227 militants have been killed in different parts of Kashmir so far this year. While they belonged to different organizations, the Lashkar and Hizbul Mujahideen suffered major losses this month as both groups lost some of their top commanders, especially in south Kashmir, which has become a hotbed of militancy. Last year, 207 militants were killed in this period.

This November, nine militant commanders were killed – five affiliated with the Hizbul Mujahideen and four with the Lashkar. Officials say the focus of late has been to target the militant commanders who are pivotal in fresh recruitment to the outfits.

J&K’s director general of police, Dilbag Singh said the number of militants at present is hovering around 250. “After several successful operations, the graph of militancy, especially in south Kashmir, has come down and fresh recruitment has also declined.’’

A senior police officer who keeps an eye on militancy and fresh recruitment told Hindustan Times that this year more than 15 top militant commanders affiliated with Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar, Hizbul Mujahideen, Harkat-ul- Mujahideen, and Ansar–ul-Gazwat- ul-Hind were killed in different operations launched by the forces. “Even the militant modules who were helping commanders and several hideouts were busted.’’

The officer said that now only three to four prominent top commanders are active – Hizbul Mujahideen’s operational commander, Riyaz Naikoo, Al Badr commander, Zeenat-ul Islam who was earlier with Hizbul Mujahideen and now has shifted to Albadr, Lateef Tiger who was an associate of Burhan Wani and Zakir Musa, the chief of Ansar-ul-Gazwat-ul-Hind. “The killings of several commanders have put the commanders who are at large under tremendous pressure,’’ the officer said.

The spate of militant killings, officials said, has also led to a decline in the number of Lashkar cadres present in the Valley which was earlier somewhere between 120-150. This year, more than 45 militants, most of them foreigners, were killed on the Line of Control while trying to sneak into Valley.

Officials give several reasons for the successful operations in south Kashmir, especially in last three months. “The intelligence network, flow of information from both human and other sources and shifting of the militants from forests to populated areas in the month of November are the reasons for the killing of militants,’’ said an officer deployed in south Kashmir.

The months of October and November usually see a surge in the killing of militants as they shift base during this period due to the onset of winter. These two months last year saw 44 militants were killed while this year, the tally has reached 63 – 26 in October and 37 in November.