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KNZ NEWS DESK

Srinagar, March 11 : 18 militants have been killed in gunfights with government forces since the February 14 Pulwama bombing attack, a top Army commander said Monday.

14 of the slain militants including commanders belong to the Jaish as eliminating the group’s leadership has been top priority of forces, General Kanwal Jeet Singh Dhillon, General Officer Commanding, XV Corps, said at a joint press conference by the Army, police and CRPF.

He said Jaish militant Mudasir Ahmed Khan, who was one of the two militants killed in an encounter in Tral’s Pinglish area on Monday, was the “mastermind” of the February 14 Pulwama attack.

Mudasir had been active for more than a year now, he said.

Of the 18 killed militants killed since February 14, 8 were from Pakistan and 10 were locals including two each from LeT and HM.

The encounter at Pinglish was based on specific intelligence, wherein two militants were killed.

“I would like to assure once again that operations against foreign terrorists and the JeM leadership will continue till we eliminate all of them,” General Dhillon said.

He said local recruitment had seen a “downward trend.”

IGP CRPF Operations Zulfikar Hassan said the Tral gunfight was significant because Mudasir was involved in December 31, 2017, Lethpora camp attack as well as the convoy attack on February 14.

“We are working in close coordination with NIA and I am sure sooner or later rest of the people who were involved in the attack on convoy shall be dealt with,” he said.

IGP Kashmir S.P Pani said Mudasir was “wanted in several crime cases since he became active a year ago” and his killing had caused a huge dent to Jaish.

The recruitment by Jaish over last three months has significantly come down, he said.

“According to the police records, both the killed militants were affiliated with JeM outfit and were wanted by law for their complicity in a series of crimes including attack on security establishments and civilian atrocities. Many terror crime cases were registered against them,” a police spokesman said.

“Moreover both militants were involved in planning and executing several terror attacks in the area particularly Mudasir who was involved in Case FIR No 150/2017 pertaining to the attack on CRPF camp in Lethpora on December 30,2017 and Case FIR No 08/2018 under section 18,19,20 ULAP Act,” the spokesman said. (GNS)