No one willing to take up JeM leadership in the Valley: Army

Pulwama: A house destroyed during a gunfight that erupted between security forces and militants in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on Feb 18, 2019. A Pakistani JeM terrorist who plotted the suicide bombing on a CRPF convoy and an Indian Army Major were among seven people killed. (Photo: IANS)

Srinagar: Lt Gen K J S Dhillon Wednesday said after the Pulwama terror attack the security forces launched an offensive against the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in the valley, resulting in a situation where no one is willing to take up the leadership of the outfit.

"Forty-one militants were killed. Twenty-five of them belonged to JeM. Thirteen were foreign terrorists -- Pakistanis and category A plus and above," said Lt Gen Dhillon, at a joint press briefing accompanied by Jammu and Kashmir's Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbag Singh and Inspector general, CRPF, Zulfiqar Hassan at the police control room here.

"We targeted the JeM leadership and the situation now is such that there is no one willing to take up the leadership of the JeM in the valley. In spite of Pakistan's best efforts, we will continue to suppress the JeM," Lt Gen Dhillon, who is the Commander of the Srinagar-based Chinar Corps, said.

DGP Singh said 2018 and the year so far had been successful in containing militancy in the valley, barring stray incidents, including the February 14 Pulwama terror attack.

"This year, stone-pelting and law and order engagements reduced drastically. We did face some law and order situations during counter-insurgency operations, but those have been fewer than before," Singh said.

He said the recruitment of local youths into militancy has dipped. "That is a very healthy sign. There were very large-scale successes in counter-insurgency operations. Two-seventy-two terrorists were neutralised in 2018 and many were apprehended," he said, adding "we stopped a very big number of youths from joining the wrong path (militancy)."

The state's top cop said militants killed last year included many commanders of JeM and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

"A total of 46 foreign militants have been killed last year and in the current year -- 27 belonged from JeM and 19 from LeT. Foreign elements getting neutralised has made a big dent to the ongoing militancy," he said.

The DGP said the successes during the current year have been quite commendable and troops on the ground have done a very good job.

He also said planning by the officers led to the smooth conduct of the first three phases of the Parliamentary polls.

"Around 70 militants have been neutralised and a large number have been apprehended. The law and order has been generally under control. We haven't experienced much law and order problems during this election - the three phases of which are over. Minor issues have been there, but there has not been poll-related violence as experienced in 2017 because of very good planning by the officers on the ground. We do hope the rest of the two phases pass off peacefully," he said. Elections will be held in the state on April 29 and May 6 as part of phases 4 and 5.

Stating the LeT in Hajin area of Bandipora district killed an innocent 13-year boy during an encounter with the security forces, Lieutenant General Dhillon asked the people whether it was 'jihad' (holy war) or 'jehalat' (barbarism).

Lt Gen Dhillon said operations against militants in the hinterland and along the Line of Control will continue with full vigour and they will not let terrorism rise to the serious levels as before.

He urged the local militants to surrender. He requested the youths to not come close to the encounter sites.

He said the biweekly ban on civilian traffic on Srinagar-Jammu National Highway was a "temporary measure".

The DGP said after the last two phases of the elections were completed, the traffic ban will be reviewed.

"I think it is under review by the government and after the two phases of elections in south Kashmir are over, more relaxation is expected," he said.

When asked about fewer encounters taking place after the polls commenced, Singh said the operations are on, but the engagements have lessened as the security forces' focus is on the peaceful conduct of elections.

Referring to the poll percentage in the first leg of the poll in south Kashmir, he said the poll percentage was a reflection of the prevailing situation.

"A percentage of around 13 per cent is good considering the situation in south Kashmir. People showed courage and voted despite threats. It is everyone's right and no one can be forced to vote either," he said.

The DGP said a militant was arrested from Bathinda area of Jammu in connection with a blast in Banihal earlier this month.

"He is linked to the Banihal blast case and is being investigated. We will share further details with you later," Singh said.

He said the security forces take every input about militant attack seriously.

"We spend sleepless nights, that is our job. We spend more sleepless nights these days because of inputs. These inputs cannot be ignored and we take them very seriously," he said.

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