Having suffered a large number of killings of their cadres during the current year because of locals in Kashmir passing on information about their presence to the security forces, terrorists have returned to their two-decade-old strategy of operating from bunkers in orchards and natural caves instead of their own villages.

The strategy of terrorists operating from hideouts dug in orchards of South Kashmir was exposed during encounters on December 15 and 22 when the security forces shot dead terrorists of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) outfit in an encounter in an orchard in the Sirnoo village of Pulwama and Arampura of Tral.

An Army deserter, Zahoor Ahmad Thokar, who had also joined the HM, was killed in the encounter.

Thereafter, the joint teams of the Army, CRPF, and Special Operations Group (SOG) of the J&K Police were scanning the orchards of Pulwama, Shopian, Anantnag, and Kulgam districts in a bid to trace terrorist hideouts.

Hideouts of two most wanted commanders of the dreaded terrorist outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, Riyaz Naikoo and Ansaar-Gazwatul Hind’s (AGH) Zakir Musa, were busted by the security forces on Tuesday night. The two, however, managed to give a slip and managed to escape just minutes before the bust. The hideouts in Tral and Avantipura areas were located in orchards away from villages to avoid detection.

More than 250 terrorists, the highest number in a single year, have been eliminated during the current year and it is believed that the security forces have gained an upper hand only because of flow of information of their presence in villages coming out from the locals. Terrorists have brutally killed several locals whom they suspected of functioning as informers of the security forces.

Zakir Musa has escaped a number of cordons of security forces as he was believed to be living in a natural cave in a hill area. One such cave was detected in South Kashmir a few months ago.

In a joint operation, 55 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) of Army, SOG and CRPF’s 182 and 183 Battalions cordoned off a vast field area of Badariwan in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district at around 10 pm Tuesday.

It is worth mentioning that at least 15 top terrorists of HM and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) have been killed in underground bunkers, caves and orchards in South Kashmir in the past four weeks. Zakir Musa’s deputy commander of AGH, which has links with the Al-Qaeda, was killed in the Arampura encounter. Musa was recently spotted in Amritsar and Ferozepur of Punjab.

Terrorists had constructed concrete bunkers at Hilkaka in the Surankot area of Poonch district of Jammu and these were destroyed in the massive “Operation Sarpvinash” by the Army in 2003. These bunkers were being used as the transit point of terrorists after infiltrating from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).