Security forces have killed nearly 150 militants in Jammu and Kashmir in the first seven months of this year — a significant success as compared to 157 militants killed in 2019. However, with only 17 foreign terrorists (FTs) killed till July end this year, the number of militants from Pakistan killed by the security forces has nosedived by almost 50% compared to last year.
The data is at odds with the claim of J&K Police that recruitment of local militants has gone down since the scrapping of special status of J&K.In 2020, local militants accounted for more than 88% of militant deaths in security operations. In 2019, they accounted for 79% of militant deaths in encounters. In 2019, J&K Police, the CRPF and the Army killed 32 militants who had come from across the border. A majority of them (19) belonged to JeM.
Of the nearly 150 militants killed by security forces in J&K till July this year, 17 were from Pakistan. Among them, seven were from JeM, three from LeT, one from Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, while the allegiance of six could not be established. Intelligence inputs suggest there are 80-100 Pakistani militants in the Valley.
Sources said there are multiple reasons for the fewer deaths of militants from across the border this year. “One, it is assumed that for much of the year Pakistan asked its operatives in the Valley to lie low as until June end, the sword of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) blacklisting was hanging over its head. It is evident FTs are not engaging security forces this year as often. There have been hardly any fidayeen attacks or storming of security force premises this year,” a senior security establishment officer said.
Another officer pointed out that much of the intelligence generated has been about movement of militants in South Kashmir and so there have been more operations in that region. South Kashmir sends maximum number of local militants to outfits such as Hizb-ul-Mujahideen.
This is also reflected in the data. In 2020, of 150-odd militants killed, only 15 were killed in operations in North Kashmir. While 10 were killed in Srinagar, the rest were all from south Kashmir. In 2019, 41 of the 157 militants killed were in operations in North Kashmir, four were killed in Srinagar and the rest in South Kashmir.
“It is in a North Kashmir operation that you are most likely to encounter a Pakistani terrorist. They cross the borders and then either straightaway launch an attack or hide in North Kashmir for instructions. This year it appears the FTs are not leaving the jungles or are hiding in remote villages. Things will be clear only in the next couple of months,” a J&K Police officer said.
The narrative also fits with Pakistan reportedly pushing a new group in Kashmir, The Resistance Force, following abrogation of Article 370, sources said. The group has been increasingly claiming attacks in North Kashmir and using social media to project itself as a local rebellion. Many of its members, however, have been identified as either Pakistani or belonging to outfits such as LeT or JeM after they were killed in encounters by security forces.