Ready to face Taliban challenge: Army

Srinagar: Army apprehends increased infiltration attempts by militants in Kashmir in view of the “depleting” militant leadership and upcoming elections but is prepared to meet any challenge, including possible influx of Taliban fighters from Afghanistan.

“There will be attempts to infiltrate by militants due to elimination of the leadership (of militants) but I am prepared,” General Officer Commanding of the Army’s 15 Corps Lt General Gurmit Singh told reporters here Saturday.

He said the success of the counter-infiltration grid was evident last year as several militants were eliminated along the Line of Control.

Asked about the forthcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, the officer said, “We will be very concerned about providing a secure environment” for the election process.

The Corps Commander evaded a direct reply when asked if the pullout of US troops from Afghanistan can lead to influx of Taliban fighters in Kashmir.

He, however, said the security grid in the Valley was ready for any eventuality.

“There are regional dynamics of the security situation. The counter-infiltration grid is in place and we are ready for it. As a security force, I got to be ready for any security challenge. And for that assessment of the threat and preparedness are important dynamic,” he added.

Lt Gen Singh said the militant activity in the beginning of this year was higher in the Valley compared to last year.

“The first (militant) elimination last year took place in April but this year it started on January 7. So far, we have eliminated 24 (militants)—11 killed and 13 apprehended,” he said.

He also rejected the allegations that Tauseef Ahmad, a Jaish-e-Mohammad militant, was killed in the Army custody in Pakherpora area of Budgam earlier this week. “We had not arrested Tauseef. He was killed in an exchange of fire. Our policy is that we offer a chance of surrender to militants. And if they refuse and open fire, we have no alternative but to retaliate,” he said.

“We are committed to ensuring no human rights violations,” he added. The Corps Commander claimed the militant infrastructure was still intact across the Line of Control.

On the controversial Keran operation last year, Lt Gen Singh claimed it was a large-scale infiltration attempt from multiple points by militants which was foiled successfully.

“Eight militants were killed and 59 weapons were recovered. There was no fatality on our side but six soldiers were injured during the operation,” he said. with PTI inputs