The emboldened nature of militancy in Jammu & Kashmir hit home yet again on Thursday, with a virtually military-style ambush of an Army column in Shopian leading to the death of three soldiers, even as the security establishment's estimate of the number of terrorists in the state has undergone a sharp upward revision in recent times.
Though officials say it was more of "an opportunity ambush" rather than "a well-planned one" at Chitragam in the early hours of Thursday, which also left two officers and others seriously injured, it was executed by terrorists with coordinated firing from different directions. There is also some concern that the intelligence inputs on which the security forces first went to one village and then were diverted to another could have been "planted" by terror sympathisers.
Army chief General Bipin Rawat himself reached Srinagar on Thursday evening to review the security situation in the aftermath of the ambush, while the Northern Command said,
"Such incidents only strengthen our resolve to continue relentless operations against Pakistan sponsored anti-nationals in Kashmir Valley."
Officials say fresh estimates indicate there are now around 450 terrorists in J&K, with the bulk of them being "active" rather than dormant. Of them, over 350 are located north of the Pir Panjal or in Kashmir. "The number of local terrorists is also fast going up as compared to foreign ones from across the border. There have been around 100 fresh recruitments in the militant ranks over the last one year," said an official.
"Counter-terror operations are easier to conduct against foreign terrorists, who more often than not stay away from populated areas," he said, adding there is also relatively more support for local recruits from natives.
Overground workers of terrorist groups are also increasingly providing "intelligence" about the movement of forces in terrorism-hit areas, which has also seen a rise in stone-pelters. The Army says at least 25 terrorists have managed to escape the security dragnet over last one year due to interference from the stone-pelting mobs.