Bandipora encounter: Third member of elite Garud commando force killed in Kashmir as operations against militancy intensify

The killing of an Indian Air Force elite Special Force Unit Garud commando on Saturday in Bandipora district has exposed the vulnerability of the first batch of IAF commandos deployed with the Indian Army in Kashmir for live situational training.

At least six militants have been reportedly killed by forces in an encounter in Chandrageer area of Hajin, an erstwhile base of pro-government militia Ikhwan-ul-Muslimoon led by folk singer Kuka Parry. The militants who have been killed include Owaid, the son of Abdul Rehman Makki, who is the deputy of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed,

The encounter began on Saturday afternoon when troopers of the Army's Rashtriya Rifles, Central Reserve Police Force, and the Jammu and Kashmir police, surrounded the Chandergeer village following specific information about the presence of militants there. One of the Air Force commandos, who was a part of the joint operation, lost his life in the operation.

"As the forces tightened the cordon around the area, they came under fire, triggering an encounter," army spokesperson Col. Rajesh Kalia, said.

 Bandipora encounter: Third member of elite Garud commando force killed in Kashmir as operations against militancy intensify

Representational image. PTI

Hajin has witnessed many gunfights between militants and government forces in the past few months, after militants started suddenly appearing in a cluster of villages that also serve as a route for them to move from north to central Kashmir.

Director General of Police Kashmir region, SP Vaid, said that six LeT militants have been killed in the encounter so far. "There is a possibility of one more militant hiding in the area, and the operation is ongoing," he said.

The Special Forces Unit of the Indian Air Force faced its first casualty, after it was established in 2004, when armed militants attacked the Pathankot airbase in January 2016.

In Kashmir, the force lost two members on 11 October in an encounter in the same area in Hajin that also left two militants dead. This was after it was deployed along Indian Army early this year for live situational training.

The government forces have launched massive operations in the past decade in the Kashmir region to clear the areas of militancy, killing more than 186 till Saturday. Till last week, 87 personnel from the armed forces have lost their lives. The encounter, that left six militants dead, comes at a time when the forces are shifting their attention towards north Kashmir after launching an "all-out operation" in south Kashmir.

The operations had initially remained confined to the south of Kashmir but in recent weeks, the security forces have also engaged militants in north Kashmir, particularly in the areas of Bandipora and Sopore.

Hajin, which has recently witnessed violence from both sides, has come a long way. Perception of it is slowly changing, from being the erstwhile headquarters of the Ikhwanis to becoming a stronghold of foreign militants.

But sources say that the casualties suffered by the Indian elite special force unit Garud Commando is also because of inexperience in dealing with counter-insurgency operations. “There is a vulnerability factor here,” an Indian Army officer said, on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media. “This is their first time in the Valley. They are part of a live situational training and are understanding how counter-insurgency operations are carried out. They tend to be at the forefront.”

The Indian Air Force deployed two squads of Garuds in August with the Army to understand and experience the live situational training during counter-insurgency operations with Rashtriya Rifles in Kashmir.

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Updated Date: Nov 18, 2017 21:03:08 IST