Hizb suffering reverse after reverse
1 March 2002
The Daily Excelsior
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
Srinagar: While as the Jammu & Kashmir militants’ most formidable group, Hizbul Mujahideen, has been suffering colossal damages at the hands of security forces since the beginning of this year, three of the outfit’s prominent cadres got killed today at Karimabad, in Pulwama district of south Kashmir. They were eliminated by Border Security Force (BSF) hours after the killing of two Hizbul Mujahideen militants at Jamnagri village of Shopian. Meanwhile, security forces have eliminated two more Pakistani commanders of Lashkar-e-Toiba in Tsoonthwaliwar, Ganderbal. After the Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf’s January 12th speech over radio and television, the situation in Kashmir valley looks diametrically different from what it was this season last year. Large-scale militant violence, regrouping of cadres and heavy recruitment had been witnessed in the unilateral cease-fire of security forces from November 2000 to May 2001, in all parts of Kashmir valley. However, unpredicted developments— September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in America, October 1 attack on Jammu & Kashmir Assembly in Srinagar, December 13 attack on the Parliament in New Delhi and, significantly, Taliban’s debacle in Afghanistan have sounded almost a death-knell for Kashmir insurgency. Nevertheless, the heaviest jolt for the separatist camp has been Musharraf’s January 12 speech and subsequent crackdown on the militant outfits in Pakistan. The American journalist Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and killing— which forced Musharraf to describe the champions of the morale-boosting suicide attacks as ''double agents''— has also multiplied uncertainties for Kashmiri militant groups. Even the senior active militants here are heard asking what could be the Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Salah-ud-din’s fate after Musharraf’s labeling ''heroes'' like Omar Sheikh and Maulana Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammad as ''double agents''. This has had a bearing on the overall morale of the militant groups— almost no attacks on security forces, no indoctrination, no recruitment, no launching of trainees, more surrenders, more flow of information about the militant hide-outs and more militants getting killed in gunbattles. Official sources insist that both of the last 24 hours operations in Pulwama district were conducted on the tip-off provided by civilians. According to DIG Anantnag-Pulwama range Ashok Gupta troops of BSF 104 Bn and SOG Pulwama swooped on a militant hideout at Karimabad and eliminated three prominent militants of Hizbul Mujahideen ''in a surgical operation''. The setback for Hizbul Mujahideen is significant in the sense that the ''District Commander'' Irshad Ahmed Dar alias Shada S-o Abdul Gaffar Dar R-o Quil, is among the three militants killed. After Sikandar-e-Azam and Tariq Aziz, Irshad was unparalleled in appeal, influence and terror in Pulwama district. He had joined militancy after getting a diploma in computer engineering. Residents revealed that he had returned from Pakistan just three months ago. They, however, claimed that he was only a ''battalion commander'' at the moment of his death. Two others killed in the Pulwama encounter have been identified as Imtiaz Ahmed Wani S-o Noor Mohammad Wani R-o Chatpora (Pulwama) and Firdaus Ahmed Wani S-o Mohammad Ramzan Wani R- o Drabgam. Three AK-56 rifles and equal number of wireless sets are claimed to have been recovered from the site of encounter. As already reported in this newspaper, Hizbul Mujahideen’s Azad Ahmed Ganai of Jamnagri and Fayyaz Ahmed Chopan of Wangan had been eliminated by security forces at Rishinagri, Shopian, last evening. Meanwhile, the nightlong gunbattle between militants and security forces’ in Ganderbal area has ended with the death of two Pakistani militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba. SOG Ganderbal, CRPF 65 Bn and troops of Rashtriya Rifles 05 Bn had launched the combing operation in the snow-clad Lalmarg (Tsoonthwaliwar) in Ganderbal area last evening. Two of the militants killed in the fierce gunbattle have been identified as Abu Zahid and Abu Turab. Officials claimed that Abu Zahid a Fidayeen commander of the Lashkar in Ganderbal-Bandipore belt of north Kashmir.