A fierce gunfight between security forces and militants has been going on in the Maidanpora forests of Lolab valley in the Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir near the Line of Control since Sunday afternoon, leaving two soldiers and a militant killed.
A press release issued by the police on Monday said the slain soldiers were Naik Vipin Thakur and jawan Kamaljeet Singh of the army’s 9 Paratroopers.
Unofficial reports, however, claim five to six soldiers had been killed.
Defence spokesperson Lt Col JS Brar said the exact details of the clash were not yet known.
Clashes between militants and security forces have witnessed a sudden spurt over the past three weeks. Official figures say 30 militants and 11 soldiers — one of them a major — were killed in the half-a-dozen encounters since March 18.
The bloodiest was the gunbattle in Hafruda forests of Kupwara, which lasted for five days from March 20 to 24 and left 17 militants and eight soldiers dead.
However, the police and security forces believe that the militants fighting in Maidanpora could be part of the foreign militants’ group that had escaped from Hafruda.
They also fear that the militants could be Taliban cadres, who might have infiltrated recently. Their apprehensions are based on the intercepts of conversations, showing Lashkar-e-Tayyeba cadres asking the Taliban to go back.
Recently, Jammu and Kashmir police chief Kuldeep Khuda told a television news channel that the Taliban had moved closer to “our” borders. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also said last week that militants might strike during the parliamentary elections.
But the opposition leader and president of the Peoples’ Democratic Party Mehbooba Mufti alleged that it was a “ploy to ensure low turnout in the parliamentary elections, which has always helped the National Conference.”
She said, “The ghost of militant attacks is aimed at scaring away people from participating in the elections.”
Syed Ali Geelani, chairman of the hard-line faction of the Hurriyat Conference, also rubbished the Taliban bogey, saying, “Neither al Qaeda nor the Taliban are present in the territory.”