Kashmir on the boil, 2018 bloodiest year in a decade in J&K

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Wahid Bhat | Srinagar

From the attack in Pulwama on February 14, in which 40 CRPF men were killed, to continuous outbreaks of encounters in the valley, Kashmir is once again on the boil with security forces witnessing situations on the line of the 1990s, when it first exploded.

According to the official figures, 49 security forces personnel lost their lives in February alone making it the bloodiest month for the security forces in the valley since September 2002 when 68 personnel attained martyrdom in militant-related incidents.

Security forces have suffered casualties in 2018 as skirmishes with militants continue on a daily basis in the valley. (File)

On 14 February 2019, a convoy of vehicles carrying paramilitary personnel on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway came under attack after a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car in the bus ferrying CRPF personnel at Lethpora (near Awantipora) in the Pulwama district. The attack resulted in the deaths of 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel including the attacker. The responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed and the suicide bomber, Adil Ahmad Dar, was a local from Pulwama.

Since the ghastly attack, as many as ten militants and one civilian has also been killed during various encounters in February. Additionally, the total number of casualties suffered by security forces during the first two months of 2019 now stand at 51, more than the figures of 2014 when 41 security personnel lost their lives.

Post Pulwama attack

Following intelligence inputs, in the wee hours of February 18, a joint team comprising 55 Rashtriya Rifles, CRPF and Special Operations Group  killed two militants and two alleged sympathisers in an anti-terrorism encounter operation in the ensuing manhunt for the perpetrators of Pulwama attack.

One of them, Abdul Rasheed Ghazi alias Kamran, was identified as a Pakistani national and was considered the mastermind of the attack and a commander of JeM. In addition, local JeM recruit Hilal Ahmed, along with two sympathisers who housed Ghazi and Ahmed to evade capture, were also shot dead in the encounter. Four security personnel were killed in the gunfight.

Killings in Kashmir

After a low in 2012, when the total fatalities in the state were 117, the number of killings have steadily increased to a staggering 451 in 2018, a 285 per cent rise over a span of six years.

According to government data, 2018 was the bloodiest year in the valley in a decade in which  357 people (including militants) were killed. Meanwhile, according to J&K Coalition of Civil Societies, an NGO which compiles data on violence in the valley, the numbers are even higher. JKCCS pegs the total number of fatalities during 2018 at a significant 586 which includes 159 SFs and 160 civilians and 267 militants.