With around 50 Jaish-eMuhammad (JeM) militants killed this year, the Jammu&Kashmir police believes this Pakistan-based group is on the back foot in the Valley.
The JeM re-emerged as a big threat over the last year, forcing the police to recalibrate its strategy. “Their capability has been hugely dented this year, even though they continue to be a major threat,” a senior police official told ET on condition of anonymity.
Among the JeM members killed by armed forces this year were two nephews of the group’s Pakistanbased chief, Maulana Masood Azhar – Talha, son of Azhar’s sister, and Osman, son of Azhar’s brother Ibrahim. Both of them were killed in southern Kashmir.
According to police, Ibrahim was also involved in hijacking of IC-814 Indian Airlines flight in 1999 which had led to the Indian government freeing him, along with two others, in exchange for passengers on the flight.
“We have managed to kill top leaders of JeM who had potential to plan and execute high-profile attacks. Mufti Waqas, Yasir, Osman, Ali Bhai were all very important targets, because of whom we were worried for the whole year,” said the police official.
Since the beginning of 2018, J&K police has killed more than 206 militants, including around 50 JeM members who were considered to be well-trained to execute high-profile attacks. The number of militants active in the state, as per the police and other agencies, ranges between 290 and 320, of which over 200 are locals and the rest foreigners. Around 157 locals have joined the militant ranks this y ear across the Valley, according to police sources.
The JeM was reactivated in J&K 2014 after the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru in Tihar jail in February 2013. JeM constituted a special ‘Afzal Guru squad’ to “avenge” Guru’s hanging and emerged as the leading force among militant organisations in the Valley in 2017 after the top leadership of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba were killed.
“JeM has started infiltrating their men from the international border in Jammu. Later they transport them to south Kashmir and other parts of the Valley. Most of JeM’s bases are in Tral and Kellar areas of southern Kashmir and Sopore, Baramullah and Handwara of northern Kashmir,” said a senior police official posted in southern Kashmir.
Another police official said the National Investigation Agency has arrested at least six people from Udhampur and Rajouri in Jammu in recent months who were allegedly involved in attacks carried out by JeM. The state police also said that JeM modules operating from different jails have been busted and some of the detainees shifted to other jails to keep them separate so that they do not plan more attacks.