Bandipore : Four soldiers of the Indian Army, including a major, were killed in a gun battle with a group of militants trying to infiltrate near the Line of Control in Gurez sector in north Kashmir’s Bandipore district, officials said.
“It was an infiltration attempt that was foiled in which two infiltrators were killed. We lost four soldiers including an officer,” defence spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.
He said that the operation was still underway.
The soldiers, who were killed, have been identified as Major KP Rane of Maharashtra, Havaldar Jamie Singh, Havaldar Vikramjeet and Rifleman Mandeep from the 36 Rashtriya Rifles unit of the army.
Army officials said the search party spotted a group of seven to eight armed infiltrators early on Tuesday in the densely forested area of Baktoor, around 70 kilometres from Bandipore town. The infiltrators opened fire at the soldiers leading to a gunbattle in Gurez sector.
They added that the army had received an input about the presence of militants in the forested area. The area where the militants were intercepted is an old infiltration route and close to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
“The exchange took place in a dense forest area and now the army is busy in a search operation. The militants have been using the area to sneak into the valley as the Baktoor forest is also connected with Bandipore and takes three to four hours to reach inside the forests of Bandipore which are interlinked with Lolab Valley,” an official said.
It is not clear whether the army has retrieved the bodies of the infiltrators or some of them managed to go back to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
This is the first major infiltration attempt made by militants from Gurez that has been averted.
Intelligence inputs have suggested that the militants have been using the Gurez route for some time now to strengthen its cadre base in Kupwara and Hajin areas of north Kashmir and a few groups have successfully infiltrated through the area this year.
A senior police officer also admitted recently that militants are using Gurez to sneak into the valley.
The forests of Gurez were considered the favourite infiltration route by militants soon after the start of militancy in early 1990. However, the infiltration bids came down after the LoC was fenced.
In June, the army and state police had launched a big search operation in the forests of Pannar and Chandeji in Bandipore after an input that a large group of militants had sneaked into Valley after crossing the LoC and then entered into Baktoor forests.
Two militants and a soldier were killed in the operation. However, security forces couldn’t trace the other militants and the operation was terminated after three weeks.
Last year, three infiltrators were killed in a similar operation in Gurez at Baktoor.