One more militant killed, others still fighting; CM, DyCM pay tributes to soldiers
Kupwara: Three army soldiers and two men of the Special Operations Group (SOG) of police have been killed and two other SOG men, one of them in critical condition, are admitted at an army hospital after being injured in a gunfight that is still raging in Halmatpora forests in Kupwara district.
Srinagar-based army spokesperson Col Rajash Kalia told Kashmir Reader that two army soldiers and two men of SOG were killed on Wednesday in the ongoing operation in Halmatpora. An army statement released late in the evening said that one more army soldier had been killed.
Police in Kupwara said during the day that no body of a militant had been recovered so far, but Director General of Police (DGP) SP Vaid tweeted in the evening: “4th dead body of terrorist recovered from encounter site of Kupwara. Firing still continues.” In another tweet he said: “Total 5 terrorists killed in Kupwara encounter”.
The army had said on Tuesday that four militants had been killed in the Halmatpora operation.
Sources said that a fierce exchange of firing started Wednesday morning when the government forces, which included paratroopers, resumed their operation to collect the bodies of militants.
The militants hiding in the dense forests inflicted several casualties on the government forces. The injured personnel were moved to the army hospital in the afternoon, where four personnel succumbed during the day. It is not yet clear where the third army soldier died. Two SOG men are still admitted in the hospital, one of them in critical condition, a source said.
Local people of the area said that the army and other forces had installed dozens of lights along the forest area in Halmatpora and had cordoned all routes leading to the area. Heavy firing was exchanged throughout the day, they said.
The gunfight broke out on Tuesday afternoon in the forested area that is some eight kilometers from the district headquarters in Kupwara. In the evening the army claimed to have killed four unidentified militants.
A group of seven to eight militants are still believed to be in the forested area where the gunfight is taking place.
The deceased army soldiers were identified as Sepoy Mohammad Ashraf Rather of 160 Territorial Army and Naik Ranjeet Kholka of 05 Bihar regiment. The killed SOG men were identified as Special Police Officer (SPO) Mohammad Yousuf Cheche of Kachama, Kupwara, and Deepak Thusoo of Nagrota, Jammu.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh paid rich tributes to the slain policemen and army soldiers. They expressed solidarity with the bereaved families of the deceased and prayed for peace to the departed souls.
A press release issued by the police in Srinagar said: “In the forest of Halmatpora under police station Kupwara on receiving specific inputs, Police Kupwara along with 41 RR, 160 TA, 98bn CRPF and 162bn CRPF launched a search operation in the said area.
“While the search was going on, the hiding terrorists fired upon the search party. The fire was retaliated by the security forces ensuing an encounter.
In the ongoing encounter, so far 5 terrorists have been neutralised; all of whom are understood to be foreign terrorists and part of a freshly infiltrated group,” it said.
“In the process, huge cache of arms and ammunition and other incriminating materials which include AK 47 rifles, grenades, etc, were recovered from the encounter site. In the ongoing encounter two policemen Sgct Deepak Thusoo and SPO Mohd Yousuf and two army personnel Sep Ashraf Rather of 160 TA & Nk Ranjeet Kholka of 05 Bihar were martyred.
“Earlier in the exchange of fire one SPO namely Javaid Ahmad was also injured and subsequently shifted to hospital for treatment. His condition is stable. It is pertinent to mention here that the encounter is in progress in the dense forests area. Owing to the thick vegetation and low visibility, the security forces are mopping the area with due caution. In this connection a case has been registered and investigation has already been started under the relevant provisions of the law by the Police,” it added.