Fierce gunfight in Poonch as Pak tries to push infiltrators under firing cover

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Feb 18: An infiltrator, suspected to be a Pakistani militant, was killed while three Army soldiers were injured, one of them seriously, in a major infiltration attempt tonight on the Line of Control (LoC) at Khari Karmara in Poonch district. Death toll of the infiltrators could go up as a couple of them were reportedly injured during the intrusion bid.
Sources told the Excelsior that troops observed infiltration attempt by the militants under the cover of heavy mortar shelling and firing by Pakistani troops at Khari Karmara in Poonch sector this evening and opened firing. While retaliating Pakistani shelling, the troops engaged the militants, numbering between three to four, who were making desperate bid to sneak into this side.
Heavy exchanges took place between the two sides for about an hour in which an infiltrator was killed while at least three Indian Army soldiers were injured. Intermittent exchange of firing continued till late tonight.
Three Army soldiers injured in Pakistan shelling have been identified as Sepoy Abhishek Pise, Shiva Ji Bhosare and Ashish Singh. They were evacuated from the site of shelling and admitted to the Military Hospital. Pise and Singh were stable while Bhosare had sustained injuries in the head.
Sources said Pakistani troops and infiltrators simultaneously targeted forward Army posts as desperate militants, who were equipped with arms, ammunition and explosives, made determined attempt to sneak into this side.
“The infiltration attempt was foiled,’’ sources said, adding that at least one of the infiltrators has been killed while the toll could rise to two.
This was second major infiltration attempt during past four days in Poonch district. The first such bid took place in Mendhar, which was also thwarted by the alert troops. There were reports that a couple of militants had been killed in failed infiltration bid at Mendhar though their bodies were not recovered on this side.
A Defence spokesman tonight said: “Pakistan army initiated unprovoked and indiscriminating firing from 5.15 pm along LoC in Poonch sector with a view to facilitate an infiltration attempt.
“The alert troops deployed along the LoC detected the movement, and engaged with effective automatic fire. Search and sanitization operation are in progress’’.
The Defence spokesman said Pakistan continued its nefarious designs of supporting and abetting infiltration across the LoC.
“The Army is keeping a strict and constant vigil across the LoC and is prepared to thwart any nefarious designs of Pakistan sponsored terrorists,’’ he added.
Recently, Northern Command chief Lt Gen Devraj Anbu had stated that over 300 militants were waiting across LoC to infiltrate into the Indian territory and that Army was taking all possible steps to ensure that the militants don’t manage to sneak-in.
Sources said the infiltration attempt could rise in the coming days as weather has started opening-up in some of the areas.
“The Army was devising its strategy accordingly,’’ sources said, adding that troops were maintaining very high alert along LoC in twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri not only to tackle the ceasefire violations but also to foil infiltration attempts.
Twenty people—11 security personnel and nine civilians have been killed and over 75 others injured in Pakistan shelling along Line of Control and International Border in Jammu division since the beginning of this year.
Few days back, Indian Army had launched major fire assaults on the Pakistani troops along LoC especially the areas, where “unusual activity’’ was observed to ensure that any attempt by Pakistan to push militants into the Indian side or indulge in “other kind of mischief’’ was effectively thwarted.
Indian Army was using Light Field Guns, heavy 120mm mortars and anti-tank guided missiles to target Pakistan posts where militants were reportedly given shelter for infiltration into the Indian territory.
The massive action by India has forced Pakistan army to issue 35 red-alerts to its forces. Pakistan, according to sources, has now pressed panic buttons all along the LoC.
“The Indian Army, with all its Commanding Officers along the LoC being given adequate freedom of action, is hammering and bleeding the Pakistan army to deny it any tactical advantage of moral ascendancy along the LoC,’’ sources said.
If India lost 32 soldiers in ceasefire violations, infiltration and other incidents along the LoC in 2016 (another 30 laid down their lives in counter-terrorism operations in the hinterland), sources said nearly 130-140 Pakistani troopers were killed in the same year. The assessment is there are over 300 terrorists (the number could be even around 400) in and around launching pads along the LoC on Pakistan sides looking for an opportunity to enter into the Indian territory.
“In view of massive presence of militants along LoC, Indian troops are bracing up for “hot summer’’ both on LoC and hinterland and even possibility of tension defusing on the LoC also seems to be remote.
“Full freedom has been given to Commanders of Army posts along LoC in Jammu and Kashmir to effectively respond to any act of violence by Pakistani troops,’’ sources said.