The presence of an al-Qaeda linked militant group, headed by Zakir Musa, was not very large in Kashmir as only few people had joined it, a top Army commander said here today, asserting that the situation in the valley was much better than last year.
Musa, who was earlier heading the Hizbul Mujahideen, quit the militant outfit in May and was later appointed the head of the al-Qaeda cell Ansar Ghazwat-Ul-Hind.
The Army commander was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a function at Delhi Public School here where he inaugurated a computer museum.
He also felicitated an employee for showing courage and helping the security forces in securing the school premises when terrorists entered it on June 25 after attacking a patrol party on the highway. Two terrorists were killed in the operation that lasted over 24 hours.
Lt Gen Sandhu said the Army had increased its operating bases in south Kashmir with an aim to clear the region of militants as part of its ‘Operation All Out’.
“Last year, the presence of terrorists in south Kashmir had increased and especially in Shopian, there was a larger presence of terrorists. We had to continue operations against them.
“So, we have opened new operating bases there, at least seven to eight in Shopian. We have also increased operating bases in Pulwama and Kulgam. The aim is to try and clear that area of the presence of terrorists,” he said.
He said many local youths had joined the militant ranks in the valley.
“Yes, there have been a number of local boys who have joined the terrorists and I hope that in due course they will start realising that it is not worth it,” he said.
The GoC, however, said the situation in Kashmir was much better than last year and the violence levels had reduced to a great extent.
“(The situation is) much better than say few months ago or last year. The situation is improving. There is a lot of normal activity which is going on, business activities, people are doing their normal day to day life (activities). The violence levels have reduced to a great extent,” he said.