Al Qaeda’s offshoot in Kashmir, Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind (AGH), has been wiped out from the Valley with the killing of the group’s chief Hameed Lone and two other terrorists, Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbag said on Wednesday.
Lone, alias Hamid Lelhari, was the successor of Zakir Musa, the founder of the AGH in Kashmir, who had vowed allegiance to the Al Qaeda and was killed in an encounter in May this year.
Addressing a hurriedly called press conference, a day after the three terrorists were killed in Tral area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, the police chief said the operation was carried out following a tip-off from the local police.
Besides Lone, others killed in Tuesday’s encounter are Naveed Ahmed Tak and Junaid Rashid Bhatt.
“All the killed terrorists as per police records were part of the Zakir Musa group and were wanted by police for their complicity in a series of terror crimes, including attacks on security establishments and civilian atrocities,” Singh said. The police chief said the anti-militancy operation had dealt a severe blow to the AGH.
According to Singh, the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed was also trying to coordinate with other terror groups, including the AGH, in Kashmir to carry out attacks. “The AGH has been wiped out but some elements who are over-ground workers are there. They suddenly crop up and join militant ranks… But, as of now, the AGH has been wiped out from Kashmir,” Singh said. “The JeM is trying to coordinate with every militant group in Kashmir. JeM and LeT get directions from Pakistan on who to target, what type of violence to incite and at which level. So JeM and LeT are both trying to coordinate with every group,” he added.
Asked if the AGH’s contact with JeM meant it was in Pakistan’s hold, the DGP said the connection is “indicated”. “It is difficult to say but I would say that at a local level that connection is visible, that connection is being indicated, that it is being directly run by Pakistan as of now,” he said.
The police chief also said a “sizeable number” of militants had infiltrated since August 5, when the Centre announced that it was revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcating it into two union territories. “(It is) difficult to give a number of militants who have come in after August 5. But their number is sizeable that much I can say,” he told reporters in response to a question.