SRINAGAR: A six-hour-long gunfight in Kakriyal area, near Katra, in Reasi district ended on Thursday afternoon with the killing of three Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) militants who had fired from a truck upon a CRPF checkpost on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. The militants had fled from the truck and escaped into nearby villages at Jhajjar Kotli on Wednesday.
Twelve men from the government forces, including a senior police officer, 5 CRPF troops, and 3 army soldiers were injured in the gun battle, DIG Jammu Bhimsen Tuti told Kashmir Reader.
At 11.30am today, a joint team of security forces tracked down the three militants in Kakriyal village of Katra. They were on the run after a brief exchange of gunfire with CRPF troops manning a checkpoint at Jhajjar Kotli on the national highway on Wednesday morning.
When the search team started advances, the militants hiding in a residential house opened fire to break the cordon. The joint team of police, army and CRPF returned the fire, setting off a fierce gun battle.
“In the initial exchange of fire, one militant was killed. A senior police officer and a few troops were injured,” the DIG Jammu said.
He said during the later part of the encounter, two more militants were killed. “The encounter lasted for nearly six hours. Twelve security personnel including four policemen, among them an SDPO, and five CRPF personnel and 3 army jawans were injured in the gunfight,” the DIG said.
According to reports, police have arrested the truck driver and a BSc nursing student who was travelling with him in the truck. Police said the duo had come from Kashmir on September 9 to take the militants to the Valley from Hiranagar, along the International Border in Kathua district. The BSc student has been identified as Mohammad Iqbal, son of Abdul Khaliq, resident of Pakharpora, Budgam. The truck driver has been identified as Riaz Ahmad, son of Ghulam Ahmad, resident of Hajin, Pulwama. He also owned the truck, which bore the registration number JK03F 1476.
Police said the brother of Riaz was a militant who had been killed in an encounter.
A villager living near Jhajjar Kotli told government forces that on Wednesday night at about 10pm, three armed militants carrying haversacks entered his house. They changed their clothes, took biscuits and water, and left.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Jammu Vivek Gupta had told Kashmir Reader on Wednesday that the search of the truck had yielded one AK rifle and 3 magazines. Local sources had said that 2-3 militants between the age group of 18 and 22 years were seen on the run near Suketar village near Katra crossing on Wednesday.
Inspector General of Police, Jammu Range, SD Singh Jamwal said today that two AK-47 rifles and a pistol were recovered from the spot where the militants were killed.
He said that after getting isolated from the truck, the militants could not find any shelter in Jhajjar Kotli area. “As the militants do not have a support base here, they could be easily traced and neutralised,” he said, adding that the terrain and the monsoon season were the main obstacles in the search operation.
Jamwal told reporters that the priority of government forces was to avoid any civilian casualty. He said that the family members living in the house where the militants had taken shelter were rescued with utmost care.
In his briefing to reporters, Jamwal said that the militants had probably infiltrated from Pakistan via the Samba border and seemed to be Pakistani nationals.
“Whenever they get a chance, militants infiltrate via the Jammu border and take the route of the highway to reach their support base in the Valley,” he said.
Jamwal said that all the twelve government forces personnel injured in the gunfight were out of danger.
A senior army official told reporters that the militants infiltrated via the Samba border. He said that the truck driver and his partner had come to Jammu to ferry the militants to Kashmir Valley. Intelligence agencies were alerted when they came to know that a truck driver had ordered five plates of breakfast even though there were just two persons in the truck, the army official told reporters.
Some of the injured government forces’ personnel have been identified as: SDPO Nagrota Mohan Lal Sharma, SgCt Mohammad Iqbal and Bhanu Pratap Singh, Haresh Pal Singh (CRPF 6th Bn), Pancham Singh (6th Bn), Abhav Singh (187 Bn), Manoj Kumar (AC 187 Bn), and Zakir Hussain (6th Bn).