Four soldiers killed as Pakistani Army fires at Indian posts in Kashmir's Gurez sector; two militants die in operation
Four militants, who were covered by the Pakistan Army, were killed in the retaliatory firing by the Indian side, but the bodies of only two have been found so far.
Srinagar: The Pakistan Army fired on Indian Army posts along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir's Gurez sector on Monday night. The attack left four Indian Army soldiers, including a Major, dead. Two militants were also killed in the retaliatory firing and their bodies were found later, though initial reports said four militants had been gunned down.
Police officials said that unlike Kupwara and Uri, Gurez does not witness frequent infiltration bids as the mountain peaks in the region remain snow-covered even in summers. In Gurez, militants do not have long tracts of forest cover either to use as escape routes or to sneak inside Kashmir.
A defence spokesperson based in Srinagar, Colonel Rajesh Kalia, said the army had foiled an infiltration bid in the Gurez sector. The encounter took place between the Indian Army's 36 Rashtriya Rifles battalion and the militants, who are believed to have been covered by Pakistan Army troops.
While two militants were killed, four others managed to escape back to the Pakistani side, police officials said. A top police official said the firing was reported at four Indian Army posts — Panth, Govind, Losar 1 and Bakhtor — on Monday night.
"The Indian Army posts on which Pakistani troops opened fire are near the Razdan Pass. The entire region remains covered with snow (even in summer), and that has made the operation difficult. There is a gorge between the Panth and Govind posts. The militants were spotted in this area, and four army soldiers were killed in the exchange of fire," a senior police officer said, adding that the Indian Army's Losar 1 post was also targeted by the Pakistani side's Losar 2 post.
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Superintendent of Police (Bandipora) Shiekh Zulfikar Azad said that police teams have been rushed to the area to assess the situation. He said the army has not handed over the militants' bodies yet. "Our police teams have been rushed to the spot to assess the situation and assist the army in the operation."
Besides the snow-capped mountains and the lack of a thick forest cover, the police explained that the fact that the Indian and Pakistani armies face each other in Gurez with less than a kilometre between them makes the sector even more dangerous for militants to try to sneak into Kashmir through this region.
Nevertheless, skirmishes have been reported between the Indian Army and militants in various areas of the Gurez sector, said a police official. In Kashmir, these encounters are mostly in the forward areas of Uri and Kupwara that militants frequently use to cross the border.
Unlike the constant cross-border firing Uri and Kupwara witness along the LoC, the Gurez sector remained largely calm after the Indian Army conducted surgical strikes on militant bunkers in Pakistan on September 29, 2016.
The firing, which began late on Monday, was on even on Tuesday evening. The site of the encounter is nearly 80 kilometres from Gurez town and is accessible mainly on horses.
"From Gurez till the Bakhtor region, there is a 30-kilometre stretch that takes a day and a half to cross to reach Losar," an official said. "The army spotted the bodies of the two militants killed during the search operation in the area. Here, the India and Pakistani armies face each other, and there is no fencing along the LoC."
Between 2003 and 2007, the Gurez sector witnessed heavy exchange of fire between the two sides, police officials said, but the cross-border firing gradually declined.
Over the years, a number of major infiltration bids have reported from Gurez. On 20 August, 2011, the Indian Army had killed 12 militants along the LoC. In July 2005, seven militants were killed in a gun battle that lasted three days. In July 2017, three militants were also killed as the army foiled their infiltration bid in the Gurez sector.
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