A colonel died and two security personnel sustained serious injuries in a gun battle with terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara district on Tuesday.
Colonel Santosh Mahadik, commanding officer of the 41 Rashtriya Rifles, was injured when a search party he was leading came under fire from militants in the dense forests of Haji Naka along the Line of Control.
The injured include a police official of the Special Operations group in Jammu and Kashmir police. He was identified as Majloon Ahmad.
Army and police personnel were carrying out searches as part of an operation that started on November 13 to flush out terrorists -- suspected to be from Lashkar-e-Taiba -- hiding in the forest area.
The militants fled deep into the forests and the security forces continued to chase them, and a fresh gunfight erupted on Tuesday, an official said.
Lt Gen DS Hooda, Commander of the Northern Command, expressed deep condolences after Colonel Mahadik’s death.
“The Colonel was a true soldier and had conducted many successful counter-terrorist operations. Originally from the Special Forces, the officer was earlier awarded Sena Medal for exhibiting gallantry and leadership in counter terrorist operations,” an Udhanpur-based army spokesperson said.
Colonel Mahadik, 37, is survived by his wife and two children aged eleven and five years.
“The army is committed to providing all support to the family in this hour of grief,” the spokesperson said.
Son of a dairy farmer, Colonel Mahadik was proud of his roots and would often call himself a milkman’s son. His father still supplies milk and milk products to his alma mater, Sainik School, Satara in Maharashtra. The school’s alumni include top generals, admirals and air marshals.
According to sources, the group of terrorists infiltrated into the Indian side on the intervening night of October 30-31, but was trapped in the area due to rain and heavy snowfall.
The army unit that is at the helm of the ongoing operations had recently recovered the body of a militant believed to have died due to hypothermia.
Across Jammu and Kashmir, there were 70 infiltration bids last year during which 65 terrorists managed to sneak in while 136 were pushed back.
In 2013, there were 91 bids by 280 terrorists and 97 were able to slip past the army’s three-tiered counter-infiltration grid.
The recent spike in violence in the state came against the backdrop of a sharp downturn in relations between India and Pakistan following the cancellation of talks between the national security advisers in August.
India has insisted that Pakistan must address the issue of terrorism to create grounds for the resumption of bilateral talks.
(With agency inputs)