Three militants were killed on Thursday in an on-going operation launched by the army six days ago in north Kashmir’s Handwara district to chase a group of heavily-armed militants.
“A contact with the terrorists was established on Thursday morning. In the ensuing encounter, three unidentified terrorists, likely to be foreigners, have been killed,” said Srinagar-based defence spokesperson Lt Col JS Brar.
Thursday’s operation has come in the backdrop of the June 19 killing of an army man with a sniper shot near Handwara’s Rani Post. Alarmed by the attack, 15 Corps general officer in command Lieutenant General Om Prakash camped in Nowgam Sector, in frontier district of Kupwara, to oversee the operation to chase down the group of militants.
The militants, however, managed to give a slip to security cordon then. A fresh cordon was launched on June 30 in Handwara’s dense forests of Rajwar, 60 km north of Srinagar. The forest range is dotted with boulders, giving natural cover to militants, and trees.
“It was on July 1, a militant was killed, while around 5-6 militants managed to escape from the cordon,” said Handwara superintendent of police Muhammad Aslam.
A contact between the fleeing militants and the security forces was again established on the intervening night of July 2-3. “Since the operation was spread over large area of dense forest, the militants managed to cross the Rajwar ridges to enter into Nowgam area, where 17 Brigades 40 RR killed three militants on Thursday,” said Aslam.
Total of four militants have been killed since June 30 and 2-3 militants are still suspected to be hiding in the forest area. Handwara, police sources said, has at least 15 active militants.
‘Three A-K rifles, one pistol, one under-barrel grenade Launcher, cash of Rs 20,000, two compasses, one global positioning system, one radio set, one mobile phone, map sheets and a large quantity of ammunition including grenades, have been recovered from the encounter site,” said Brar.
North Kashmir is witnessing a heightened militancy with Lashkar-e-Tayyeba making fresh recruitments. Since June, the police have claimed to arrest seven militants in Sopore, adjacent to Handwara. Many were fresh recruits to be sent across to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir for arms training by only surviving Pakistani militant commander Fahadullah, according to the police.