The army says that by far the biggest intrusion by Pakistan-based militants in Keran sector of Jammu and Kashmir is a desperate attempt to replenish depleting militant ranks in the valley before the onset of winter.
The army and 30-40 militants have been locked in a battle since September 24, a week before the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India met in Washington to discuss various issues, incursions along the Line of Control (LoC) among them.
The fight continued on Friday also, with the army claiming it killed 3 militants who were part of a fresh batch that tried to infiltrate in another area, Gujjar Tur, possibly to assist those holed up in Shala Batu village since September 23. The two areas are 30km apart.
Army spokesman Naresh Vij said, “These infiltrations bids are a desperate attempt on part of militants to replenish depleting ranks before winters because the army has successfully foiled several infiltration attempts, killing about 40 militants, near the LoC this year.”
He said the army is keenly watching the new trend, as witnessed in Keran sector, whereby militants fan out only in a particular border area to engage the army for longer periods.
On Friday, he said a fresh group of militants was spotted in the wee hours in Gujjar Tur area. In the gunfight that ensued three militants were killed.
The army is not sure about the strength of the fresh group but “other accompanying militants have been pushed back,” he said.
Vij refused to comment on reports that more militants were being pushed into the valley to help those besieged in Shala Batu.
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“We are gradually narrowing down the operation. Intermittent firing is on,” Vij said.
Sources, however, told the HT that the area of operation has been widened and more elite troops are being rushed to the area.
Indeed, a few areas of Kupwara, away from the flash point, are also being condoned off in a bid to stop any militant movement from the valley to the battle zone.
The army has once again denied that any post, village or territory has been captured by the militants. “These reports are rubbish,” said Vij.
Around six square km area is under operation right now. The operation is on in a tough terrain with steep rugged mountain slopes, streams and dense forests.
“We are deliberately going slower to avoid any casualty,” he added.
The hiding militants are using global positioning system and are highly trained to sustain a longer operation inside hills. Militants continue to dominate areas where the army’s Khokri and Kullar posts are located, sources said.
The army confirmed that top militant commanders visited the launching pads of five militant outfits, including the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Hizbul Mujahideen, in the last week of September. The commanders’ visit came just days ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharief.
Meanwhile, dozens of pro-militant social networking accounts on Facebook and Twitter claim a portion of territory is under militants and are asking “supporters to pray for the holed up militants”. The state cyber police refused to confirm the veracity of these groups and the claim.
PoK-based United Jehad Council supremo Syed Salahuddin on Wednesday also claimed that “the militants were giving a tough time to the Indian Army in border regions”.
“Militancy in Kashmir valley has not come to an end. More people are joining the ranks. We are giving a tough time to the Indian Army in border regions.
Mujahideen (militants) are active in Tral, Machil, Tanghdar, Poonch and other areas,” said Salahuddin in a telephonic interview to a Srinagar-based news
service from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’s capital Muzaffarabad.
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