The security forces' footprint has considerably increased in Shopian district, considered the last bastion of militants operating in south Kashmir, with the Army establishing new camps and the CRPF pushing a reserve battalion into the area, officials said.
Once seen as the 'ground zero' for militants, who used to roam openly in the area, problems started after April this year with security forces faces resistance in entering Heff Shermaal area in the district, they said.
Senior police, Army and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel started burning the midnight oil to overcome the crisis of controlling Shopian, which is located south of the Peer Panjal mountain range and can provide free access to terrorists to cross over to Doda, Kishtawar and Poonch area of Jammu, the officials said.
After the killing of Burhan Wani, the poster boy of Hizbul Mujahideen militant outfit, on July 8 last year, the district has accounted for the disappearance of over 37 youths, who are believed to have joined various militant outfits.
Officials said that after increasing the footprint, local intelligence has started flowing, resulting in encounters that saw top militant leadership, including the main recruiter for Hizbul Mujahideen Ifan Maldera and the group's financier Waseem Sheikh being eliminated.
Victor Force, a counter-insurgency unit of the Army, headed by Major Gen B S Raju, and Deputy Inspector General of Jammu and Kashmir Police (South Kashmir) S P Pani along with CRPF officer brain stormed and started re-calibrating their plans for making Shopian a militant-free zone, they said.
Jammu and Kashmir police moved in a considerable number of its personnel to various parts of the district and its crack teams of special operation group got attached with teams of the Army and CRPF to engage in a quick operation, whenever needed, they said.
Army has established nearly five camps at Nagabal, Chillipura, Maitribugh, Zainpura and Larkipura besides increasing strength in existing camps in the area, the officials said.
The most important was the Army camp at Chillipura, which is located next to Heff Shreemal area, as it provided a safe haven to militants with a natural cover being provided by the lush green forests and apple orchards.
Considered as a gateway to the Kashmir Valley for being strategically located en-route to the historical Mughal road, Shopian has at present nearly 15 active militants out of which only Saddam and Zeenat-ul-Islam are A++ category militants who carry a cash reward on them.