Four Lashkar-e-Tayiba (LeT) terrorists were killed in an encounter with security forces on Monday in Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir, police said.
Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Manihal area of the district around midnight, following information about the presence of terrorists there, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Vijay Kumar said.
He said the terrorists refused repeated offers of surrender and opened fire at the forces.
"We appealed to them to surrender and brought their families, including wife and a four-year-old child of a militant, to appeal to them to surrender. But they refused," he said.
Kumar said after the militants opened fire at the security forces, there was a gunbattle in which four ultras were killed.
"All the four were categorised militants belonging to LeT outfit.
"Although, they call themselves as Lashkar-e-Mustafa, they are listed as LeT militants in our records and all these names, including TRF (The Resistance Front) are the offshoots of the LeT or Jaish-e-Mohammad," he said.
The IGP said three pistols and an AK rifle was recovered from the site of the encounter.
The terrorists were identified as Rayees Ahmad Bhat, who was active since October last year, Amir Shafi Mir, active since last month, Raqib Ahmad Malik, active since December last year and Aftab Ahmad Wani, active since November last year.
An Army jawan was injured in the encounter and is undergoing treatment at a hospital in Srinagar, he added.
The IGP said so far this year nine encounters have taken place in the valley with most of them -- eight -- in south Kashmir, while one in the north.
"In these nine encounters, 19 terrorists have been killed, out of which nine alone were from Shopian district and two were top commanders," Kumar said.
He said 18 youths have joined the terrorist ranks this year, out of which five have been killed in various encounters and three have been arrested.
"The rest are still active and we have been appealing to their parents to bring them back to the mainstream. Some may return.
"Also, seven youth who had joined the militancy have been brought back with the help of their families. The parents have increased their trust in the security forces," he added.
Kumar said Pakistan was not refraining from its activities and was using social media for inciting and radicalising youth to join militancy.
"Also, drugs are coming from Pakistan and our youth are being destroyed. I appeal the parents to take care of their children and if anyone is using drugs, then counsel him. They can approach the Police's drug de-addiction centre and we will help them," he said.
The youth not only join militancy due to drugs but get involved in other social evils and crimes, he added.
The IGP said the police will render all help to those youth who surrender their arms and leave militancy.
"I appeal to those who have taken up arms to surrender whether before an encounter or even during it. We will provide all possible help, you will be accepted and will not face any problem," he said.
Referring to the security situation in the valley, the IGP said the focus of the security forces was to maintain an atmosphere of peace.
"We would like to maintain two things. The schools and colleges should not be closed which can happen only when there is no incident and the atmosphere is good. Second, we would like to create such an atmosphere that tourists come here in huge numbers so that people here get employment and earn money," he said.
Kumar said while there has been a decline in the number of stone-pelting incidents, especially near the encounter sites, it was a larger issue than militancy as it involves the society and leads to disruption in day-to-day activities.
"When there is an attack by militants, schools and colleges are not closed, economic activity is not stopped, yatra is not stopped and tourist arrivals do not stop. But, when there is stone-pelting, there is a decrease in the yatra, tourists fear to come and schools and colleges are shut. Stone-pelting is a larger issue which involves society and so we take it more seriously," the IGP said.
He said terrorism does not make much difference to the security forces in comparison to stone-pelting and law and order issues.
"We do not want schools and colleges to be closed, shops and businesses to be shut or tourist arrivals to stop, so the law and order problem is a more serious issue," he said.
Kumar said the police have made several arrests whenever there is such an incident and many youth have been booked under the Public Safety Act.