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Srinagar, Feb 14: Two top Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) commanders were among 4 militants and four soldiers including an Army Major killed while six soldiers and a civilian were injured in two separate gun battles in North Kashmir today.
Sources said that on a tip-off, Army, Special Operation Group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) launched a joint search operation at Parray Mohalla Hajan in Bandipora district this morning.
They said that as the security forces were sealing the area, militants hiding in the village opened fire on troops and hurled hand grenades. The security forces returned the fire leading to gun battle and in the initial gun battle eight soldiers were injured.
The injured were airlifted to Army base hospital where three of them succumbed to injuries. The Commanding Officer of the CRPF, Chetan Kumar Cheetah, who was grievously injured in the encounter, has been airlifted to AIIMS Delhi. His condition is stated to be critical.
The security forces returned the fire killing one militant who has been identified as Abu Haris, a top commander of LeT.
Srinagar based Defence Ministry spokesman, Lt Col Rajesh Kalia told Excelsior that one militant and three soldiers were killed and five others were injured in the encounter. He said that the condition of the injured is stated to be stable.
He identified the Army men killed in the gun battle as Dharmendera Kumar of Pataliya, Uttarakhand; Rifleman Ravi Kumar of Meen Sarkar Tabela of Samba and Gunner Astosh Kumar of Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
In another gun battle, three militants were killed and an Army Major was injured in Handwara area of North Kashmir this evening.
Deputy Inspector General of Police, North Kashmir, Nitish Kumar told Excelsior that security forces received information about presence of 3-4 militants in Khan Mohalla Hajin Kralgund area of Handwara’s Kupwara district. He said that three militants were killed in the gun battle and an Army Major was injured. However, Lt Col Kalia said that Major S Dhaiya, who was leading the operation from the front succumbed to his injuries.
Sources said that Army of 30 RR and SOG Jammu and Kashmir police launched a joint search operation in the area after specific information. “As the security forces zeroed in the area the militants were hidden they fired upon injuring an officer. Security forces retaliated resulting in the killing of three militants. One of the killed militants has been identified as Abu Darda alias, a top commander of LeT and the identity of other two is being ascertained.
General Officer Commanding (GOC) Kilo Force, Major General Jarken Gamlin while giving details of the gun battle in which top LeT commander was killed, said that militants waiting on the launch pads is not a new thing. “Every year they infiltrate and we neutralize them here”, he said.
The GOC said that there are more foreign militants in North Kashmir than the locals. “There are more foreign militants in North Kashmir then the locals and so far, as per police records, nearly 23 locals have joined the militancy”, he added.
Asked if the stone pelting is hindering the anti-militancy operations, Major General Gamlin said: “As far as North Kashmir goes, we do not face such problem order during operations and in future, we hope not to confront such challenges”.
He said militancy was always there but the agitation of last year’s unrest had allowed them to settle as our focus was shifted from anti- militancy operations to agitation.
“With the onset of summers, we will intensify anti- militancy operations. We have already started the anti-militancy operations that are the reasons you hear about gunfights every now and then”, he said.
Asked why are more educated youth joining the militant ranks, he said: “You should ask this question to the Political leaders and the state Government. Army’s primary role is to conduct anti-militancy operations and we are doing it”.