SRINAGAR: Al Qaeda’s Kashmir cell Ansar Ghazwatul Hind (AGH) was dealt a severe blow on Saturday, with security forces killing six militants of the Zakir Musa-led outfit, including its deputy chief, in Pulwama district of south Kashmir.
Based on intelligence inputs about the presence of militants in Awantipora area of the district, the police, CRPF and army launched a cordon and search operation early on Saturday, a police official said. During the operation, the personnel came under heavy firing from militants hiding in the region.
“The troops returned the fire, and in the ensuing gunfight, which went on for nearly three hours, six militants of the AGH were killed,” the official added. Arms and ammunition, including rifles, were recovered from the site of encounter.
The deceased were identified as Soliha Mohammad Akhoon, Faisal, Nadeem Ahmad Sofi, Rasiq Mir, Rouf, and Umar, all residents of Tral in Pulwama district.
Soliha was the deputy chief of the AGH and an active militant since 2015.
“He was involved in many attacks on security forces,” said a police official, adding that the other slain militants were also part of several incidents of violence in south Kashmir.
The bodies were handed over to their legal heirs after the completion of medico-legal formalities, and later in the day, thousands of people attended funeral prayers for the slain militants at their respective hometowns and chanted pro-freedom, pro-Zakir Musa and anti-India slogans.
Speaking about the encounter, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir S P Pani told this newspaper that the six militants killed were key operatives of the AGH.
“It is a severe jolt to the Zakir Musa-led faction,” he added, highlighting that no collateral damage was sustained in the encounter. Zakir Musa, a close aide of former Hizb commander Burhan Wani, had rebelled against the Hizbul Mujahideen, and now heads the AGH. His group comprises not more than two dozen militants, police officials said.
6 CRPF men injured in grenade attack
Militants threw a grenade at a CRPF patrol party at Arwani in Kashmir’s Anantnag district on Saturday, injuring six personnel of the CRPF. The attack took place during an incident of stone-pelting in the area, a police official said.