Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbag Singh on Wednesday said that Ansar Ghazwatul Hind, the Kashmir cell of Al-Qaeda, had been eliminated from the Valley during an encounter in Pulwama district’s Tral area on Tuesday evening, PTI reported. Singh also claimed that Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed was trying to communicate with other groups in Kashmir to plan attacks.

“The AGH [Ansar Ghazwatul Hind] has been wiped out but some elements who are overground workers are there,” Singh said. “They suddenly crop up and join militant ranks...But, as of now, the AGH has been wiped out from Kashmir.” The police chief identified three militants who were killed as Naveed Ahmed Tak, Junaid Rashid Bhatt, and Hameed Lone, also known as Hamid Lehari – who reportedly took over after former chief Zakir Musa’s death. All of those killed were residents of Pulwama, police said, adding arms and ammunition were also recovered. A case has been registered.

Zakir Musa, the commander of the Ansar Ghazwatul Hind was killed during an encounter with security forces in May. Singh said all the militants were part of the Zakir Musa group, and were wanted for several attacks, including those on security establishments and civilians. The police chief claimed the group was working closely with the JeM.

“The JeM and the Lashkar-e-Taiba get their direction from Pakistan on who to target, what type of violence to incite and at which level,” the senior police official said. “If you remember, two Gujjar brothers were killed in Tral [on August 29] and Pakistani militant Yasir of the JeM was involved in that. He was in contact with this group.”

The police chief urged the youth in Jammu and Kashmir to opt for peace instead of militancy, adding that the number of young people choosing the line of terrorism had gone down “significantly” since the region’s special status was revoked. “Happy to say that since 5 August, the rate of people joining militancy has reduced even though some were of the opinion that the abrogation would send more people into militancy,” he said, according to Firstpost.

Earlier on Tuesday, police officials had said that three Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists were neutralised during an operation in Awantipora in Pulwama district. Two of them were reportedly involved in the killing of the Gujjar brothers in Tral.

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‘Azadi for Islam’: How Zakir Musa became founder of Kashmir’s first al Qaeda affiliated group

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