13 Die In J&K's Second Biggest Drive Against Ultras In 45 Days17 May 2010
Srinagar: For the past 12 days, the army is engaged in one of the biggest operations against militants in the Rafiabad forests in north Kashmir’s Handewara and Kupwara districts. Codenamed ‘Operation Thunder Strike’, the offensive was launched on May 5 when the army received information about 14 to 22 newly infiltrated militants hiding in Rafiabad. Eleven militants and two soldiers have died in the past few days. More than four units of Rashtriya Riffles (RR) and other forces are engaged in this operation in mountains spread over a 25 square kilometre area. Nearly 11 militants are still hiding in the forests. Army sources say additional troops have been mobilised to guard the the Line of Control (LoC) after information came in that 200 to 400 militants were waiting in the training camps to be sent for subversive activities. “We have mobilised more men to guard the LoC. We have also stepped up vigil to counter the infiltration, if any,” an army officer said. This is the second biggest operation in Jammu and Kashmir in the last one-and-a-half months. The army had killed 16 militants in a seven-day encounter in Kalakote jungles of Rajouri district in Jammu in April. The militants had infiltrated a few days before the operation. Six soldiers had also lost their lives. “The militants were first seen in Duggarpora village on May 7. Six of them were killed subsequently. We also lost two soldiers in the operation. We further tracked their movement and killed two more militants in Wader-Chek area,” said Major General N George, general officer commanding (GOC), Kilo Counter Insurgency Force of the army. Taking advantage of the inclement weather, dense jungles and rugged terrain, the other militants started moving north of Rafiabad. “On May 11, we again spotted the militants in Sajipora. Three of them were subsequently killed. In all, 11 militants were killed. Four of them were locals,” Maj Gen George said. On Sunday, the army busted a major hideout and recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition in the jungles. The find included 22 AK rifles, one rocket-propelled grenade, one 60-mm mortar, seven pistols, three 303 rifles, seven radio sets, one night-vision goggle, over 100 grenades, anti-tank mines and other arms. “Our intelligence inputs said a group of 14 to 22 militants had infiltrated into the area on the last week of April. Due to the heavy snow and increased vigil on the borders, infiltration of large groups has become impossible. Therefore, these ultras may have crossed the LoC in small groups. Operations are on to flush out the remaining militants,” Maj Gen George said. The GOC said, for the first time, the army made announcements through mosques, asking the local militants to surrender. “Since we know that there is a rift between foreign and local militants, we made an offer for surrender through mosques. Unfortunately, no one surrendered,” he said. There were no civilian casualties, Maj Gen George said. “During night, it becomes very difficult to identify the militants unless the gun is visible. Despite such constraints, we have been able to avoid civilian casualties. This is a big achievement, given the size of the area and the difficult terrain,” he said.