SRINAGAR, Feb 23: In a deadly militant ambush on security forces in South Kashmir’s Shopian district, three Army personnel and a civilian were killed and four Army personnel including two officers were injured early today.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Bipin Rawat this evening arrived in Srinagar following today’s deadly attack. As for last two weeks there has been surge in Army casualties in Kashmir, the Army chief came on an unscheduled visit. Eight Army personnel, equal number of militants and three civilians were killed since February 12 in Kashmir.
Sources said that the Army chief soon after his arrival visited the injured soldiers in the 92-Base Hospital and reviewed the security situation with top Army Commanders. He was briefed about the security situation by GOC 15 Corps, Lt General JS Sandhu. Army chief is returning to Delhi tomorrow morning soon after wreath laying of three soldiers at BB Cantonment.
Three soldiers died on the spot, while four personnel including a Lieutenant Colonel and a Major were injured when 44-Rashtriya Rifles (RR) Army party that was returning from a cordon and search operation was ambushed at village Mulu Chitragam in district Shopian.
The Army party was returning to its headquarters from a cordon and search operation which they had launched against militants at village Kungnoo, Shopian in South Kashmir. The operation was called off as no militants were found inside the village.
Militants had blocked the road inside the village that leads to the 44- RR headquarters at Katho Halan in Shopian during the night. As soon as the Army vehicles stopped, the militants who had laid ambush fired indiscriminately from automatic weapons and hurled grenades at them. Army retaliated the militants’ fire and the firing went on for nearly an hour. But taking advantage of darkness, the militants fled the spot. A woman was injured in the cross firing.
The slain soldiers have been identified as Lance Naik Gh Mohi ud Din Rather of Punchpora Bijbehara, Sapper Sreejith MJ of Kerala and Sepoy Vikas Singh Gurjar of Rajashthan. The woman was identified as Taja Begum wife of Ghulam Mohammed Mir of Mulu, who was hit by a stray bullet inside her house in the cross firing between the militants and the security personnel.
Lt Col of 44-RR and Major Amar Deep were also critically injured in the attack and they are being treated at 92-Base Hospital in Srinagar.
A police spokesman said that on an information a cordon and search operation was carried out at Kungnoo, Shopian, by 44 RR and Police during the night. “The cordon and search operation concluded without any arrest or recovery. While returning from Kungnoo, the party was attacked by unknown militants at Mulu Chitragam at about 2 am resulting in injuries to six Army personnel including two officers of whom three succumbed to their injuries,” the police said.
Police sources said that the attack was carried out by the militants of Hizbul Mujahideen. They identified the attackers as Zeenatul Islam from Malnad Sugan Shopian, Tariq Ahmad Bhat from Barbug Shopian, Abid Manzoor Magray from Nowpora Payeen Pulwama and Aasif Ahmad from Chiva Callan Shopian and Showkat Peer from Trang Shopian. The sources further said that two militants were also injured in the Army retaliation.
Today’s attack is another major attack where Army has suffered casualties. Two weeks ago on February 14, three soldiers were killed and 15 security personnel injured in a gun battle in Bandipora district. A militant was also killed in the gunfight. On February 12, two security personnel, four militants and a civilian were killed in an encounter in Kulgam district.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti has condemned the killing of three Army personnel in a militant attack at Shopian.
The Chief Minister said violence has never been and could never be a means to address issues. She said the unending cycle of violence in the State has brought untold miseries to the people and collective efforts are needed to get the State out of the morass of death and destruction.
Mehbooba also expressed deep grief and anguish over the death of a civilian in the incident.
She conveyed her sympathies with the bereaved families of the soldiers and the civilian.
Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Nirmal Singh has also condemned the killing of three Army personnel and a civilian in a militant attack at Shopian.
Condemning the act, the Deputy Chief Minister said the sacrifices rendered by the soldiers while defending their nation would be remembered for ever. He said the acts of violence have brought death and destruction across the world and should be condemned by every section of the society at all levels.
Expressing his sympathies with the families of martyrs, the Deputy Chief Minister prayed for the eternal peace to the departed souls.