Lieutenant General Kanwal Jeet Singh Dhillon, who is General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps, led a press conference on Tuesday in the aftermath of a 17-hour long encounter between Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists and combined security forces in Pinglan of South Kashmir on Monday.
The Lt Gen, along with Inspector General of Jammu and Kashmir Police, SP Pani, and Inspector General of the Central Reserve Police Force, Zulfiqar Hasan, gave out a stern warning against men talking up arms in the Valley. They also sought to answer reporters' questions on the details of the Pulwama attack on 14 February and Monday's encounter, even though information on how the blast took place, why so many casualties took place on Monday's encounter and on whether there had been an intelligence failure on the two occasions were kept from the public, citing that they were "operational details".
Some of the key gleanings of the press conference are as follows:
1. Lt Gen KJS Dhillon paid homage to the soldiers who attained martyrdom on 14 and 18 February. He added that all of the soldiers who were injured on both the dates were receiving excellent treatment and were out of danger.
2. The Army had been following intelligence inputs since the 14 February attack in Pulwama and decided to carry forward the encounter after receiving "specific information" said Dhillon. "In less than 100 hours (since the Pulwama attack) we eliminated the JeM leadership in the country," he announced. He also spoke on the "complete synergy" of the Army, the Jammu and Kashmir Police, the CRPF and the Special Operations Group.
3. Dhillon went on to request parents of Kashmiri youth who have joined militants, especially their mothers, to ask their sons to return to the mainstream. "Anyone who has picked up a gun in Kashmir will be eliminated unless they surrender," he said. He then highlighted the mainstreaming system put in place by the government.
4. Efforts were also made to put across the message that fewer Kashmiri youth are joining the militants.
5. CRPF IG Zulfikar Hasan noted that Kashmiri students across the country were safe and have been calling the 14411 helpline number. "Everything is under control," Hasan added.
6. When asked as to why Monday's attack saw so many casualties, Dhillon said the reasons why so many personnel of the security forces were killed were twofold. "We did not want civilian casualty. Not a single civilian died in the encounter; the one who died was killed because terrorists opened fire. We took it on our chin. Brigadier Harbir Singh, who was injured in the encounter cut short his leave voluntarily and led men from the front to ensure its success," Dhillon said.
7. Upon repeated questions on Abdul Rasheed Ghazi alias Kamran's role and on whether he was the mastermind, Dhillon said it was not possible to give out details on the specific part each Jaish operative could have played in the twin incidents. "Kamran was the commander in chief of JeM Kashmir. We have eliminated the top commander of the outfit that caused the attack," he added.
8. One of the most important takeaways from the press conference was the defence brass's explicit acknowledgement of Pakistan's role in the attack. "JeM is a part of the Pakistan Army. Pakistan is controlling them. You and I both know that the Pakistan army is 100 percent involved here," Dhillon asserted.
9. Dhillon maintained that a lot of past attempts by terrorists have been foiled but information on this has not reached the masses. "Kitne Ghazi aye, kitne chale gaye," he added.
Ghazi or Kamran is a Pakistani national who died on Monday. Another one of the terrorists killed was Hilal Ahmad, a local recruited by the terror group. The identity of the third is being ascertained.
Four army jawans, including a Major-rank officer, also lost their lives in the gunfight, and eight officers, including a Lieutenant Colonel, were injured in Monday's encounter. The army men who died were Major Vibhuti Shankar Dhoundiyal, Sepoy Hari Singh, Sepoy Ajay Kumar and Havaldar Sheo Ram.
According to police officials, militants fired upon an army patrol in the area late on Sunday night, following which they sneaked into a residential locality. The army men chased them, leading to an encounter.
The encounter came days after 42 CRPF personnel were killed on Thursday in one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir when a Jaish-e-Mohammad suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into their bus in Pulwama district.
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Updated Date: Feb 19, 2019 12:11:09 IST