The chief of Jaish-e-Muhammad in the valley was among five militants slain in two separate overnight military operations in Pulwama and Budgam districts of Jammu and Kashmir, officials said on Sunday.
The JeM chief Zahid Wani was active since 2017 and was behind several attacks on Indian armed forces and recruitment of youth into militant ranks.
Speaking to reporters at a joint press conference in Pulwama, IGP Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, and GoC of the army’s Victor Force, Major General Prashant Srivastava, said the gunfights, which broke out on Saturday, took place in Pulwama and Budgam districts of the Kashmir valley after the forces received specific inputs about the presence of militants.
While four JeM militants were killed in a military operation in the Naira area of Pulwama, in south Kashmir, one ultra of Lashkar-e-Taiba was killed in the Chrar-i-Sharief area of the central Kashmir’s Budgam district.
“Zahid Wani was a top commander of the Jaish. His brother was involved in the Ban Plaza attack (in Jammu) and is in jail. Wani was active since 2017. After the death of Sameer Dar, he became the district commander of JeM. In fact, he was the Jaish chief of the whole valley,” Kumar told reporters.
The IGP said so far this month, there have been 11 military operations in which 21 militants, including eight Pakistanis, have been slain.
The GoC Victor Force said the Pulwama operation was not an isolated operation, but a part of the series of human intelligence-based operations that have been undertaken in the jurisdiction of the Army’s 15 Corps in the past few months.
He said Wani was one of the masterminds of various IED attacks which have taken place since 2017.
“With his death, the army has taken a very important step in neutralizing the threat of JeM in this area,” Maj Gen Srivastava said.
Wani was also involved in the “extensive recruitment” of young boys into militancy, he said.