Major killed, one hurt in Anantnag terror encounter

The gunfight continued throughout the day even as stone pelting youth protested near the site of the encounter.
Army personnel cordon off the area in Pulwama where an IED blast took place on Monday evening. (ANI photo)
Army personnel cordon off the area in Pulwama where an IED blast took place on Monday evening. (ANI photo)
Updated on May 23, 2020 10:18 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Srinagar | By Ashiq Hussain

A Major in the Indian Army was killed and another was injured on Monday during a gunfight that also left a militant dead in south Kashmir’s Anantnag, less than a week after another terror attack in the town that claimed the lives of five CRPF troopers and one police officer.

According to police and army officials, the deceased was identified as Major Ketan Sharma from the 44 Rashtriya Rifles.

In a separate incident, around a dozen soldiers were injured when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) ripped through an army patrol in Pulwama district in the evening. No casualties were reported.

Watch | Family mourns loss of Major Ketan Sharma killed in Anantnag’s terrorist encounter 

No group claimed responsibility for the incidents, which come at a time of heightened security over the Amarnath Yatra that is due to begin on July 1.

The Anantnag encounter started after a joint party of police, army and CRPF cordoned Badoora village of Achabal town following inputs about presence of militants in the area.

As the cordon was being laid around a house, a militant opened fire injuring Major Rahul Verma. After a long gun battle, which also saw locals pelting the site with stones, forces demolished the house. “But unfortunately, the terrorist escaped and hid inside a forested area nearby,” a senior official in the security establishment who did not want to be named said. “Major Ketan Sharma was killed when he was leading operation inside the forested area to apprehend the terrorist,” the officer said. “The terrorist is a foreign terrorist and extremely well trained,” the officer added.

Late in the evening, a spokesperson of the Northern Command said weapons were recovered from the slain terrorist. His identity was not clear till the time of going to press.

Army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia confirmed a terrorist was eliminated and an officer had been killed.

In the second incident, a patrol of the 44 Rashtriya Rifles was attacked in Arihal village in Pulwama district. The army termed it “a failed attack.” They said the IED was “vehicle-based” but did not clarify if a vehicle had rammed into the army patrol -- like in case of the February 14 attack that killed 40 CRPF troopers – or if the IED was placed in a stationary vehicle. “Troops (are) all safe, except a few minor injuries,” a spokesperson of the Northern Command said.

After the February strike Pulwama strike — which brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war — the army and other forces tightened security across the Valley, especially in the militant hotbed of south Kashmir. The moves involved changes to protocols for how troops are moved in these areas, with mass movements and repeated use of the same stretch or at predictable timings being identified as vulnerabilities.

“The 44 RR was moving its camps and have been using this route repeatedly for a few days. This could have made the troopers vulnerable,” a second senior official in the security establishment said.

Two civilians, too, were injured in the attack.

Security forces have killed 113 militants this year so far, including some top commanders of militant outfits in different parts of Kashmir. After the February attack, 85 militants have been killed and 26 security personnel — including the army officer killed at Achabal — have lost their lives.

Monday’s attacks come close on the heels of recent tip-offs from the United States and even Islamabad, who warned India about a possible vehicle-borne IED attack on security forces. An alert across the valley was sounded after the tip-off.

“Terror groups are headless and under pressure, they need to demonstrate that they are still active,” a senior Indian Army officer said.

(With inputs from HTC, New Delhi)

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