Two unidentified terrorists were killed in a brief shootout with security forces in Gahind area of south Kashmir’s Shopian district on Saturday morning

Reports said the encounter erupted after a joint team of army's 34 Rashtriya Rifles and special operations group (SOG) of J&K police launched a cordon-and-search--operation (CASO) in an orchard at Gahind, 58 kms from here, over a tip-off.

“As the cordon was tightened, the terrorists fired at the forces, triggering a fierce gunfight in which four ultras were neutralised,” a police official said, adding the identity and the group affiliation of the slain terrorists is being ascertained.

The search operation was going on in the area when the reports last came in. Over the last three years, Shopian district has emerged as a hub new age terrorism. The topography of Shopian mixed with people openly espousing the separatist cause and young boys proudly talking of their “heroes”, who died for a cause’, makes it an ideal ground for terrorists  to make it as their base. Most villages in the district are located at a tri-junction connecting Shopian with Pulwama, Kulgam and Anantnag. The dense orchards provide cover to the terrorists.

Since February 14 suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in southern Pulwama district, 38 terrorists, including 20 from the Jaish, have been killed in 16 encounters across the valley. Since the beginning of this year, 65 terrorists and 57 security forces personnel – 43 CRPF personnel including those in the Pulwama attack, eight army men and six police personnel – have been killed. 13 civilians have also lost their lives in various terror-related incidents.

In 2018, over 250 terrorists were killed in Kashmir which was the highest in a decade while 217 ultras were killed in 2017. Last year as many as 191 local youths reportedly joined various terrorists outfits in Kashmir which was 65 more than 2017. The new recruits mostly hailed from the restive south Kashmir region.

However, the Army maintains that recruitment of local youth into terrorism has seen a decline in Kashmir during the recent months.