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‘44 militants killed in Shopian this year’.

At least 44 militants were killed in southern Shopian district this year, according to official figures. Among these, 42 were local militants while two were foreigners, the figures suggest.

Shopian emerged on the radar of security forces immediately after the killing of popular HizbulMujahideen commander BurhanMuzaffarWani in 2016.

In the protests that followed Burhan’s killing, districts in southern Kashmir remained out of bounds for days together, with militants seen moving around unhindered and posting their videos as well. Before Shopian, Tral area in Pulwama district and Sopore in northern Baramulla district were considered to be militant strongholds in Kashmir.

Police records maintain that among 44 militants killed this year, most belonged to HizbulMujahideen and Lashker-e-Toiba outfits, while some were associated with Jaish-e-Muhammad as well.

“On April 1 this year, Shopian district witnessed massive gunfights that led to killing of 12 militants, four civilians and three security personnel. The deaths took place in two operations, with 11 of 12 slain militants hailing from 10 villages of this district,” the police records say.

A senior police officer, in knowhow of the developments, said “security forces follow a two-pronged strategy which is bearing fruitful results.”

“One is that forces, including the police, organise public contact programmes and tell people that they are here to protect them. Second is to continue and intensify anti-militancy operations,” he said, adding that “we will also act against those who are over-ground workers running militancy in the district.”

The senior police officer, who wished not to be named, said “summer vegetation” was also a reason why militants used give forces a slip.

“Most Shopian villages are located at a tri-junction. The dense orchards provide cover, especially in the summer, when even sunlight can’t penetrate the trees. It is here that militants, including from neighbouring areas, used to meet in the district,” he said. “Now autumn is helping us.”

A senior army officer posted in a southern Kashmir area said that “militant space is shrinking across south Kashmir.”

“Now there has been a drastic decline in protests during gunfights and funerals,” he said. “There is also a visible decline in recruitment into militancy while flow of local intelligence is pouring all-time high.”He said security agencies have “jointly re-established intelligence gird in southern Kashmir. After Burhan’s killing, militants reorganised themselves but we know their writ is almost over now.”

In November 2017, additional forces were moved into Shopian.

While the Central Reserve Police Force sent a reserve battalion of nearly 1000 men to the district, the police also dispatched additional personnel to its various parts. The army also established eight new camps in the district, including at Nagbal, Mantribugh, Pahnoo, Zainapora, Nagisharan and Chillipora.

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