New Delhi: Just a week after a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) affiliate group claimed responsibility for the attack on a Border Security Force (BSF) camp near the Srinagar airport on 3 October, security forces on Monday afternoon gunned down the JeM’s operational chief, Khalid, in Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla district, the Indian Army said.

Troops from the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the state police, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF battalions 92, 177 and 179) and the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) launched a joint operation in Baramulla’s Ladoora area after Khalid opened fire on the troops. In the exchange of fire that lasted several hours, Khalid was eventually gunned down by the forces.

“The SOG was on the move when they were fired upon by Khalid from the JeM. Immediately, the troops of the CRPF and the RR retaliated and a CASO (cordon and search operation) was launched by the security forces. In the ensuing encounter, Khalid was killed by security forces on the ground," said a senior CRPF official, on condition of anonymity.

Following Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani’s killing in July last year, senior officials in the Union home ministry had stated that Khalid’s killing would prove to be a game-changer in the valley.

On Monday, a senior home ministry official, requesting anonymity, said, “Khalid has been on the most wanted list of terrorists for a long time now. He had been groomed by the top brass of the JeM and his presence in the valley was wreaking havoc because the JeM specializes in fidayeen attacks and Khalid was masterminding such attacks."

Intelligence officials on the ground were however, more sceptical.

Despite the fact that the likes of Wani (Hizbul), Abu Dujana (Lashkar-e-Toiba), Sabzar Bhat (Hizbul) and Khalid have been killed by security forces since July 2016, intelligence officials said that these targeted eliminations were unlikely to bring about a drastic change to the face of militancy in the valley.

“What happened in Kashmir after Burhan Wani will not be repeated. Militant groups always find the next person to take over from where the previous leader left. It does not hamper their operations. None of these killings will have any radical impact on militancy. It is only the top leaders in Pakistan such as Masood Azhar who really matter," said a senior intelligence official, familiar with the developments.

Just a few hours after Khalid was killed, in Kashmir’s Shopian district’s Gathipora area, security forces—again, the CRPF, SOG and the RR—carried out a CASO after an exchange of fire broke out between militants of the Hizbul Mujahideen and security forces.

The CRPF confirmed that two militants were gunned down, while one continued to remain holed up at the time the story went to press.

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