8 soldiers, 17 terrorists dead, J&K gunbattle over
The five-day-long gunbattle between the army and terrorists in the Hafruda forests in Kupwara district came to an end on Tuesday evening. But the army operation to flush out terrorists was still on, defence spokesperson Lt Col J.S. Brar said. The gunbattle had spread to three different places in the forest on Tuesday.
Hafruda, 130 km north of Srinagar, is a vast hilly area covered with thick pine forests, and the clash has occurred deep inside the forest. The troopers have cordoned off a 10 sq km area from the spot of encounter.
Commenting on the bloodiest clash between the army and terrorists in the state, Brar said six terrorists were killed on Tuesday, taking the death toll to 25 — 17 terrorists and eight soldiers, including Major Mohit Sharma of the Rashtriya Rifles.
The terrorists appear to be well trained. “The jawans we lost were not killed in indiscriminate firing. The terrorists waited for the troops to come within the firing range,” said a middle-rung police officer in Kupwara. The identities of the slain terrorists are not yet known, as all terrorist group are silent on the clash.
The defence spokesperson said the army believed that more terrorists were still cooped up deep in the forest, which has several caves where the terrorists can hide and build defensive positions. He said: “It is a huge forest. There can be many more terrorists in the area. We have encircled them from all sides.”
Although sources claimed that helicopter gunships were being used to track down the terrorists, Brar said: “It is a dense forest area with poor visibility. So, helicopters cannot be pressed into service here.”
The army have so far recovered 17 assault rifles, four under-barrel grenade launchers (UBGL), 13 AK magazines, 207 rounds of AK ammunition, 21 grenades, two global positioning systems and two radio sets, besides two haversacks and Rs 9,200 in Indian currency.
The spokesperson said it all began on Friday, when troops of the 6 Rashtriya Rifles and the state police intercepted a group of terrorists in Hafruda forest, killing two of them, while three more were killed in separate clashes inside the forest area.
Statistics show 2008 witnessed lowest number of deaths since the eruption of militancy in 1989 — 541, including 69 civilians, 90 security personnel and 382 terrorists. The highest number of deaths — 4,507 — took place in 2001, with the deaths of 1,067 civilians, 590 security men and 2,850 terrorists.