Pakistan army-backed Border Action Team (BAT) and not militant groups active in the valley may have launched the Keran operation in north Kashmir. It has come in the backdrop of the armies of the two countries resorting to tit-for-tat operations on borders since January this year.
The state security intelligence grid in Srinagar has underlined the operational details pointing towards the BAT’s involvement to crossing the armed men into Indian territory.
“The operation was meticulous unlike the random infiltration bids, more than two dozen times, made in Kupwara district this year. The infiltrating armed men had advance information on the movement of the army regiment, had details of bunkers in the area and complete idea of topography and about strategic altitude points,” said a counter-insurgency on-ground official.
In the last week of September, a unit of the army’s Kumaon Regiment was replacing another when armed men were spotted on the night of September 23-24. “Even the places of stockpiles of soldiers were identified,” said the official.
Another pointer towards Pakistan army’s complete complicity in the operation was that the armed men were deliberately not using any means of communication.
“Most infiltrating militants are received either by guides or use mode of communication to constantly stay in touch with militant commanders inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to be received by militants on this side,” said the counter-insurgency cell official.
The infiltrating armed men apparently seemed “more resolved to stay back in an area and apparently returned without a trace of any body or stockpiles”, said intelligence sources. This, he said, was not possible without huge logistic support from across the border.
The 30-40 armed men engaged the army for 15 days in Keran Sector. It was also followed up by two major infiltration bids in the first week of October in which seven militants were killed.
Shalla Battu village, which witnessed migration of civilian population in early 1990s after cross-border shelling and firing, was chosen deliberately for the operation. The pass of Shalla Battu has Pakistan soldiers with an edge because at least two sides are dominated by the pickets of Pakistan.
The operation came just a day after the army claimed to have foiled an infiltration bid in Keran Sector and killing a “militant” and recovering a new kind of pistol from him.
The state police confirmed that the body handed over to it was of a man around 60-year-old and “may not have been a militant but a guide”.
The police suspected the dead to be Atiqullah, a well-known militant guide, from north Kashmir. “During investigation, we found he was not Atiqullah but someone from across the border.”
Since January (see box) there has been surgical operation from both sides that saw killing of soldiers and civilians by the two armies. There are reports of violations of the Line of Control from both sides.
Sources said the operation could be because of the fact that the Pakistan army was under pressure from border residents to ensure their safety.
On August 21, a group of residents from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’s Neelam Valley met Pakistan army representatives after alleged displacement of locals in Indian shelling. At least six civilians were killed near the border there.
PoK authorities claim that various villages of Nakial sector, opposite to Poonch in India, came under Indian fire, damaging houses, cattle and injuring 11 civilians.
The BAT, since then, is in touch with the Village Coordination Committees (VCC) of the border areas. Pakistan army has warned the VCC members from going close to the LoC with the cattle fearing kidnappings.