The army on Wednesday said troops in Kashmir were engaged in continuous firing with a very ‘large group of infiltrators from across the border’ for over a week.
The army, however, ruled out that any Indian posts or villages were under the control of Pakistani forces, as reported by a certain section of the media.
Speaking to mediapersons at the army headquarters in Srinagar, Lt Gen Gurmeet Singh, Commander of the 15th Corps, said the army was ‘heavily engaged’ with a group of 30-40 militants and the encounter has entered the ninth day.
Singh claimed that 10 to 12 militants were killed in the first three days of the encounter. He, however, said a fresh infiltration attempt on Tuesday night had resulted in a fresh exchange of fire.
“It is a massive and desperate infiltration attempt that started on September 24. During the first three days, 12 militants were killed. On Tuesday night, some movement was witnessed. Around 10-12 militants were seen in the area, which was cordoned off, resulting in firefight,” said Singh. “We are trying to get answers that from where have the infiltrators come into the cordoned area.”
Reports said five jawans were also injured during the gunfight. The condition of all jawans is stable, sources said.
The army denied that Pakistani troops had occupied a ghost village near the Line of Control (LoC) and that the latter were using abandoned homes to fire at Indian soldiers. “No village or post has been taken over. It’s absolutely absurd,” he added.
The encounter began after an infiltration bid at the Keran-Mendhar sector in north Kashmir on September 24, a few days before the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan met in New York.
According to Singh, the area is at a height of nearly 10,000 feet with dense forests and thick undergrowth. “The weather is also unpredictable. This makes operation a challenge,” the 15th Corps Commander said.
He, however, added that the infiltrators had the backing of “special troops”, but stopped short of calling them Pakistani armymen.
“There were some special troops (involved in the infiltration bid), the training shows it. It is different from earlier attempts,” he said. “I will not say whether Pakistan is helping the infiltrators but the sheer fact that it is happening from that side of the LoC might say something,” he added.
Singh, however, assured that things were under control. “Any attempt of violation of our territorial integrity will not be tolerated. All we can say is things are under control,” he added.
Asked why no bodies had been found, the General said, “Retrieving bodies of dead terrorists is of no consequence to us. There are many rumours in cyberspace. Wait for operations to be over. We will share details with you.”
“Today is the ninth day of the operation, it is completely under our control, have faith in us,” said the officer. “The area is difficult. Our people are being engaged from across the LoC. We are proceeding with caution.”
Singh, however, said the troops have been given no direction to ‘hurry up the operation’. “We have given no such directions. The boys can take as much time. Our only concern is that there should be no firing from the area and all terrorists are killed,” he added.
The officer, however, refused to give any details of the operation. He also categorically denied that the air force was pressed into action to support the army.