Pak-China flags seized, 44 held in Valley’s first cordon-and-search operation after Burhan encounter
LeT issues threat to SHO Baramulla, family
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Oct 18: Police and security forces have finally broken the ice with a massive 12-hour-long cordon-and-search operation in the old town of Baramulla even as no such operation could be conducted anywhere in the Kashmir hinterlands after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter in Anantnag district on July 8. Forces attempted six of such operations in the last 100 days of turmoil but had to withdraw each time as the residents of a cordoned area made announcements on public address system of the neighbourhood mosques, shouted slogans and pelted stones. Troops chose not to take risks and violate the government’s cardinal direction of “no civilian casualty”.
Last night’s operation in Baramulla’s “Chhota Pakistan” was also significant in the sense that, after a long pause, a contingent of BSF also joined Army, CRPF and Jammu and Kashmir Police. Last fortnight, two unidentified militants, both believed to be Jaish-e-Mohammad’s Pakistani cadres, got killed in a failed fidayeen strike on the twin formations of BSF and Army at Janbazpora, on outskirts of Baramulla town.
While Police and security forces claimed to have busted hideouts and arrested 44 “wanted” persons in the nightlong operation, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba held out an open threat to SHO Baramulla Sub Inspector Khalid who is believed to have played key role in getting a number of the organisation’s militants killed and arrested in the last several months. “With the addition of today’s 44 persons, we have arrested around 70 militant supporters, harbourers and over-ground workers (OGWs) in the last seven months in Baramulla town. Many of them have been booked under Public Safety Act (PSA)”, said a senior Police officer.
Baramulla, in fact, tops all ten districts of Kashmir valley in PSA detentions in recent times. Sixty-two of such detentions have been ordered on Police dossiers by District Magistrate of Baramulla over the months. “Even in 2013 and 2014, conducting a cordon-and-search operation in the militant-infested town was next to impossible. Three bridges over Jhelum used to be the battlefronts of stone pelting. Now, we have conquered these spots fully and the clashes happen deep into the old town interiors”, said an official.
Senior Superintendent of Police in Baramulla, Imtiyaz Hussain Mir, told STATE TIMES that the previous night’s operation was conducted on specific information and disclosures made by some detainees during sustained interrogation. “We could not get any of the four JeM militants who are hiding in the old town, though we got 44 of their OGWs, helpers and harbourers arrested. We are going to release some of them as they have been found innocent and uninvolved but many of them are being booked under PSA and other laws”, SSP Baramulla said. He said that around 500 houses were searched.
SSP claimed that the first joint flag of China and Pakistan, stitched together and waved during a separatist demonstration last Friday, was seized today. He said that a number of Pakistani flags were seized from residential houses including one from the coffin of the local Jamia Masjid. “We have smashed a major network of JeM operatives and militants. It was a network of 12 militants. We have eliminated four of them in our area and four more got killed in different encounters in Handwara area. Still four of them are alive. We are getting after them and their civilian harbourers and helpers”, SSP Imtiyaz asserted.
It was the first operation in the last over three months when not a single stone was thrown on the troops and no announcements were made from local mosques.
A Defence spokesman at headquarters 15 Corps described the operation of Rashtriya Rifles 46th battalion along with Police and other forces a success. “An extensive search operation was launched by the security forces in Old Town, Baramulla, during the wee hours of Oct 17. Joint teams of Army, JKP, BSF & CRPF conducted deliberate search operations in ten sensitive localities including Qazi Hamam, Ganai Hamam, Taweed Gunj, Jamia and other mohallas reportedly being used as safe havens by the terrorists”, said the spokesman in a press release.
“The security forces sanitised the area searching over 700 houses in a span of 12 hours on 17 Oct 2016. Based on specific inputs, 44 persons involved with terror related activities have been apprehended during the operation. Large quantity of incriminating material such as petrol bombs, Chinese & Pakistan flags, LeT & JeM letter head pads, unauthorized mobile phones and seditious anti-national publicity material were seized during the raids. In addition a large number of suspected hideouts were busted during the prolonged search operations”, he added.
In a terse reaction, LeT spokesman Dr Abdullah Gaznavi said: “LeT chief Mehmood Shah has warned Khalid, SHO Old Town, Baramulla, who had recently cordoned and arrested 200 youth. Mothers, sisters, elders were beaten up and harassed as well. We had warned JK police earlier, but they seem to have ignored our advice. Those who keep soft corner for police should also wake up now. We will teach lessons now”, LeT spokesman said in a statement while claiming that his organisation had already collected the SHO’s residential particulars.
“We are aware of your movement and every one of your family. You have lost the right to complain, and you will reap what you have sown”, the LeT statement addressed the SHO.
Scores of Police officers and their families have been frightened with similar statements in the last 100 days of the near-total breakdown of law and order machinery in the Valley plains. The father of one of such SHOs, who has himself retired as Dy SP, read out his family’s apologies and appeals for mercy at a mosque in Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s hometown of Bijbehara in July. The SHO was shifted from Kulgam to Budgam district where stone pelters broke his knee. He is now convalescing at home after a surgery at Army’s 92 Base Hospital.