SRINAGAR: After rise in bank robberies and militant violence and emergence of videos of groups of armed militants, security forces aided with drones and helicopters conducted massive search operation in at least 20 villages in South Kashmir’s Shopian district on Thursday.
It was one of the biggest combing operation conducted by security forces in any part of the Valley in over a decade.
In the early hours today, a column of army, police and paramilitary personnel laid siege around at least 20 villages in Shopian district, some 55 kms South of Srinagar, the summer capital of the State.
The villages where combing operation was launched included Chillipora, Sugan, Hefkuri, Dragad, Maldera, Turkwangam, Kashew and Aripora
The security personnel sealed all the exit and entry routes in the villages and announced about crackdown through public address system.
The security men asked male population of the villages to assemble at a single place, where they were frisked and their identity cards checked.
The security personnel conducted intense house to house searches in the villages.
“Each and every house was checked thoroughly by the security personnel,” an army official said.
The house to house searches by security forces were a norm in Valley till a decade back after eruption of militancy in 1989.
As the security personnel were conducted searches in Shopian villages, the helicopters and drones hovered in air to assist the security forces on the ground.
The search operation lasted for about eight hours. However, no contact was established with the militants during the operation in which over 4000 security men participated.
In Turkwangam and Sugan villages, the youth took to roads to protest against the search operation.
They pelted stones on the security personnel, who fired tear smoke shells and pellets to disperse them.
At least two youth sustained pellet injuries and were evacuated to Srinagar hospital for treatment.
A police official pleading anonymity said massive operation was launched in Shopian early this morning after inputs that a group of militants was hiding in the villages.
“We had information that Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen militants including some foreigners were hiding in the area,” he said adding thorough searches were conducted during the operation.
However, sources said the operation was launched after emergence of videos of a group of Lashkar and Hizb militants. In one of the video, at least 30 militants could be seen while in another video, a man gave pits about how to handle weapons to the militants.
They said according to intelligence agencies, all the militant videos were shot in Shopian.
“The search operation was launched to push militants out of their comfort zones,” sources said.
They said such operations will continue to prevent militants from moving freely from one place to another and strike at will.
The massive search operation took place a day after militants looted over Rs 6 lakhs from two banks in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district yesterday.
Earlier, on Monday, Hizbul Mujahideen militants attacked a bank cash van near Pombai village of Kulgam district. In the militant attack, five policemen and two bank guards were killed.
South Kashmir comprising four districts of Shopian, Anantnag, Pulwama and Kulgam is emerging as hub of militants. The region was the epicenter of over five months-long unrest in the Valley last year triggered by killing of 21-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016.