Biggest-ever Anti-terrorist Operation On In J&K
16 May 2003
The Times of India
New Delhi: In what may be the largest single counter-insurgency operation in the past decade or so, security forces over the past three weeks have killed an estimated 60 hard-core militants in the Surankote area proximate to the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. Senior officers are tight-lipped about details but confirm the ongoing operation in the Hill Kaka area of Surankote. The Army 'has achieved tremendous success in killing and capturing quite a number of terrorists'. It has also seized a huge quantity of assault rifles, mortars, grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and under-barrel grenade launchers, among other 'war-like stores', an officer said. The intensity of the month-long operations can be gauged from the fact that the forces have reportedly used the Air Force's modified attack helicopters like MI-17s, armed with machine guns and rocket pods. For years, Pakistanis belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e- Mohammed and Al Badr have operated with impunity in this forbidding region to the west of the Pir Panjal mountains and accessed through Jammu and Nowshera. While the mountains are not particularly high, they are rugged and forested and they slope towards the Pakistani side of the LoC, providing relatively easy all-weather ingress to the Indian side. Army headquarters is keeping the incident under wraps for now. The Army does not like to publicise the use of assault helicopters in counter-insurgency operations because it may indicate escalation in militancy and might also lead to induction of anti-aircraft and anti-helicopter weapons into the Valley from across the border. The operation began around April 21-22 with 13 Pakistani militants being killed in a hideout in the Hill Kaka area. Since then, the operation has been further intensified to clear the area of all militants. 'These militants prefer to lie low in the upper reaches in areas like Hill Kaka. They have their bases and communication centres, arms and ammunition dumps there. They come down only to spread terror,' said an officer. 'Manual combing operations in such thickly-forested areas, with heavily-armed militants sitting on the top, have led to many casualties among Army troops climbing up. Consequently, attack helicopters have been used to soften their hideouts, including fortified concrete defences,' he added. The terrorists residing in this area provide a transit point for those moving to other encampments in the Pir Panjal heights and the Kashmir Valley. The current operations that are probably being conducted by elite Special Forces, are likely to be a first phase of an offensive to cleanse these entrenched jihadis from their high mountain sanctuaries across the whole state.