In a major breakthrough, the Al Qaeda's offshoot in Kashmir, Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind (AGH), has been eliminated from the Valley with the killing of the group's chief and two other militants, Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbag announced on Wednesday.
In a hurriedly-called presser, a day after the three militants were killed in Tral area of south Kashmir's Pulwama district, the police chief said the operation was carried out following a tip-off from the local police.
Hameed Lone, alias Hamid Lelhari, was among the three militants neutralised in Tuesday's encounter. He was the successor of Zakir Musa, the AGH's founder in Kashmir. Musa had vowed allegiance to the Al Qaeda and was killed in an encounter in May this year.
Besides Lone, others killed in Tuesday's encounter are Naveed Ahmed Tak and Junaid Rashid Bhatt.
"All the killed terrorists as per police records were part of the Zakir Musa group and were wanted by police for their complicity in a series of terror crimes, including attacks on security establishments and civilian atrocities," Singh said.
The police chief said the anti-militancy operation had dealt a severe blow to the AGH.
The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed, according to Singh, was also trying to coordinate with other terror groups, including the AGH, in Kashmir to carry out attacks.
"The AGH has been wiped out but some elements who are overground workers are there. They suddenly crop up and join militant ranks... But, as of now, the AGH has been wiped out from Kashmir," Singh said.
The police chief also said a "sizeable number" of militants had infiltrated since August 5, when the Centre announced that it was revoking Jammu and Kashmir's special status and bifurcating it into two union territories.
"(It is) difficult to give a number of militants who have come in after August 5. But their number is sizeable that much I can say," he told reporters in response to a question.
With PTI inputs