Srinagar: Two Army personnel including a Major and an equal number of militants were killed and a soldier wounded Thursday in separate gun battles in southern Shopian and Kulgam districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
The police and Army sources said that an Army Major and two soldiers were critically injured in a fire fight with a group of militants holed up in a private house in Matribugh, Zainpora village of Shopian, about 70-km south of Srinagar. They were airlifted to Srinagar’s 92-Base Army Hospital where Major Kamlesh Pandey and sepoy Tenzin succumbed to their injuries whereas the condition of the third jawan Kripal Singh continued to be critical, the sources said.
The troops from the Army’s 62 Rashtriya Rifles had along with Jammu and Kashmir police’s counterinsurgency Special Operations Group (SOG) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) laid siege to Matribugh late Wednesday night after learning about the presence of two to three militants. The contact with the holed up gunmen was established at around 2:30 am, the sources said.
“The terrorists opened fire as the security forces zeroed in on their hideout, triggering off the encounter. The Army suffered casualties in the initial fire of the terrorists,” said a defence spokesman in Srinagar. The police sources said that the militants are believed to have escaped from the area after breaking the security dragnet.
Hizb-ul-Mujahideen in a statement to a local news agency said the militants involved in the incident have returned to another hideout and that they are being rewarded for killing five Indian soldiers. Its spokesman Burhanuddin was quoted by the news agency CNS as saying, “The valiant mujahideen of our organization laid an ambush and attacked the Army party from all sides. Five Indian soldiers were killed and many others were injured. The Mujahideen managed to reach their destinations safely after the daring attack.” He threatened “Such attacks will continue across Kashmir Valley.”
In a separate incident that took place in Gopalpora village of neighbouring Kulgam district, two militants were killed late Wednesday night, the police said. They have been identified as Aaqib Itoo and Suhail Ahmad, both local Kashmiris belonging to Hizb-ul-Mujahideen.
The officials said that the duo was killed after the SOG and the Army jointly laid an ambush in the village on intelligence inputs about their movement in the area. “Two terrorists were killed and two weapons were found on them,” said defence spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia.
The police added that one of the slain men was involved in the June 16 attack on a police van in which six policemen including Station House Office Feroz Ahmed Dar were killed at Tajwah, Acchabal in neighbouring Anantnag district.