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Indian Forces kill top terror commander wanted in Jammu and Kashmir

Indian security forces killed a notorious and heavily sought-after bomb-maker and chief commander of the Pakistani-connected Al-Badr organization in the Jammu and Kashmir region. Indian officials and news sources identified the commander as Zeenat-ul-Islam, and illustrated his ties with numerous US-designated foreign terror organizations in the region, including Al-Badr and Hizbul Mujahideen. A second terrorist, identified as Shakeel Dar, was also killed and has been described as Islam’s “aide.”

The killing of Zeenat-ul-Islam is a big win for Indian security forces in the contested region, who encountered and killed the wanted commander and his aide during a “cordon-and-search” operation in the district of Kulgam. Jammu and Kashmir Police launched the operation in response to tips from residents that terrorists were present in the area.

Many of the active terror organizations in the Jammu and Kashmir region have benefitted from the work of Islam over the last 10 years. Last year, the Indian Army released a list of its 22 most wanted terrorists as part of its “Operation All Out.” Islam made the list, and earned its highest designation of “A++.”

In light of Islam’s death, terrorist organizations in the region including Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba paid tribute to the commander. Additionally, so-called moderate political parties associated with the “freedom movement” in the region heaped praises on the killed terrorist. According to news outlet Greater Kashmir, chairman of the Hurriyat Conference Syed Ali Geelani said in a statement, “the youth are sacrificing their precious lives to end the forcible control of their nation,” adding that, “our youth are forced to adopt the extreme path as the peaceful voices are not responded [to].”

Thousands of locals gathered to pay homage to the killed terrorist at funerals following his death, a sight that has become a familiar scene in the region. However, during a funeral for Islam in his hometown of Sugan, gunfire broke out with Indian forces looking to break up the crowds. Protestors responded with violence of their own, and clashes ensued. According to the Hindustan Times, seven civilians were injured during the clashes. Other local sources put the number of civilians injured around a dozen. Up to three civilians are reported to have been injured by live ammunition.

The full picture of Islam’s killing, paired with the lapse in judgement by Indian forces during his funeral, illustrates the deadly cycle fueling the ongoing struggles in the Jammu and Kashmir region. A Pakistani backed-and-sourced terrorist joins and supports Kashmiri terror groups that target Indian security forces; J&K Police find and kill the extremist facilitator in a professional operation that avoids collateral damage; established terror groups and local freedom movement “moderates” praise and rally around the dead terrorist; lastly, Indian forces overreact and use excessive force against civilians perpetuating the next terrorist to re-start the cycle.

This picture points to an important lesson Indian forces must learn: don’t nullify the important counter-terror successes you’ve made by giving Pakistan and it’s extremist allies in the Kashmiri region news about civilian deaths to counter your progress.

Deaths surrounding the ongoing Jammu and Kashmir conflict reached an all-time high in 2018. The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs cited 361 deaths, including 238 terrorists neutralized, 86 Indian security personnel killed, and 37 civilians lost in 2018 as of Dec. 12th. Local human rights groups pegged the number of deaths as high 586.

This past week’s events suggest 2019 will see a continued rise in violence, one that could even escalate beyond the already record numbers seen in 2018.

Phil Hegseth :Phil Hegseth is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.

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