Srinagar: The Indian Army on Tuesday said that all the top leadership of the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) outfit have been eliminated by security forces in the Kashmir Valley within 100 hours of the terror attack in which 40 CRPF troopers were killed.
Addressing a joint press conference with the state police and the Central Reserve Police Force at the Badamibagh Cantonment Headquarters of army's 15 corps, Lieutenant General, K.J.S. Dhillion, commander of the Chinar Corps said: "In less than 100 hours of the terror attack in Pulwama we have eliminated the top leadership of the JeM that was being directly handled by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Pakistan Army.
"We were tracking the top JeM cadres ever since February 14. The Pulwama terror attack was coordinated by the JeM cadres in Pakistan and the Pakistan Army," he said.
In the biggest crackdown after the February 14 attack by a suicide bomber that left 40 CRPF troopers dead in Pulwama district, the security forces ringed a militant hideout in Pinglena village, just 10 km from the Thursday's terror attack site, triggering a gun battle Sunday overnight that continued intermittently till Monday evening.
They killed three militants of the Pakistan-backed JeM, two of them Pakistani nationals identified as Kamran and Abdul Rashid alias Ghazi Umar. Besides, a Major, three soldiers and a civilian were also killed in the initial burst of gunfire by the militants.
"In yesterday's (Monday) operation in Pulwama, we have killed Kamran, who was the operational commander of the JeM in Kashmir together with another Pakistani and a local terrorist of the outfit."
On Monday's operation, the Corps Commander said it was the result of complete synergy between the Army, state police and the CRPF.
The senior-most army officer in the Valley did not accept that there was any security lapse that led to the Pulwama terror strike.
"What the terrorists have succeeded in doing is only one or two per cent of what was denied to them because of the alertness of the security forces.
"There was no restriction on movement of civilian traffic when the lone terrorist managed to get on to the highway and hit the CRPF bus.
"Restrictions on civilian traffic during movement of convoys of security forces are in place now," he said.
Answering a question on the number of security force personnel killed and injuries in Sunday-Monday's operation, the Corps Commander said that the security forces took casualties because their first priority was to ensure that no civilian life was lost.
"We took injuries on our chin to ensure protection to civilians in the area.
"You all know that except for the one civilian casualty that happened when the operation started, the security forces ensured that no civilian casualty occurred during such a long-drawn operation.
"The senior officers of the security forces always lead operations from the front. Brigadier Harbir Singh who was injured along with Deputy Inspector General (South Kashmir) Amit Kumar on Monday (who was on leave).
"He cut his leave short and reached the site of the operation directly. Both the brigadier and the DIG are doing very well in army's base hospital and they are out of danger," he said.
The top army officer said that the details about the terror strike and the breakthrough made in identifying everybody involved in the plot cannot be shared with the media right now as investigations were still in progress.
Answering a question about whether one of the two slain militants in Monday's operation was Ghazi, who masterminded and directly handled the Kashmiri JeM suicide bomber, the Corps Commander said: "So many Ghazis have so far come and gone.
"Whosoever picks up a gun against the country will be killed and eliminated," he asserted.
The top army officer made a request to parents especially mothers in the Valley to ensure that their children who have picked up guns come back to the mainstream by surrendering their weapons.
"Mothers have an important role in ensuring that their children remain safe. They must ask those children who have picked up guns to give them up," he added.