Handwara encounter: Mounting death toll of security forces cause for concern

Sixteen persons have been killed while more than two dozen, mostly civilians, have been injured in three different gunfights this week in the Kashmir Valley. The latest, among the rising number of casualties, are the three soldiers who were killed on Tuesday during an encounter in Hajin area of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district.

A dozen government forces, including an army major and a CRPF Commandant, were also injured in the incident.

The Indian Army's 13 and 31 Rashtriya Rifles (RR), the 45th battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), and Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Kashmir police had cordoned off two villages in the Hajin area of Bandipora in the wee hours on Tuesday after receiving inputs about the presence of militants in the area.

 Handwara encounter: Mounting death toll of security forces cause for concern

Indian securitiy personnel Astosh Kumar, Ravi Kumar and Dharmendra Kumar were killed during an encounter in Kashmir's Hajin area

In the initial shootout, five soldiers and four policemen were injured. While the security forces killed Abu Musa, district commander Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) outfit in the gunfight, three soldiers injured during the operation also succumbed to their injuries later.

The soldiers killed in the encounter were Astosh Kumar of 13 RR (resident of Sultanpur in Badlapur, Uttar Pradesh), Ravi Kumar of 31 RR (resident of the Samba area of Jammu and Kashmir), and Dharmendra Kumar of 31 RR (resident of Nainital in Uttarakhand).

"It was a bad day," a senior police officer, based in Bandipora, told Firstpost. “The tragic killing of three soldiers happened because the area was over-crowded, we try to avoid collateral damage. These people (militants) spray the area with bullets,” he added.

The rising number of casualties among security forces, police officials said, is a cause for concern. And this, they add, normally happens when the security forces try to corner militants to a spot after receiving real-time intelligence of their presence in a house. "When forces are about to zero-in on the house, they receive fire and suffer casualties," a police official said.

The security forces have lost five personnel since Sunday (two in Kulgam and four in Hajin area of Bandipora), whereas they killed four militants in both the operations.

“Three terrorists were killed in Handwara encounter on Tuesday evening, while one was killed in Bandipora,” Army spokesman, Colonel Rajesh Kalia, told Firstpost.

The Handwara encounter took place on Tuesday evening in a brief gunfight at Kralgund area of Handwara, a town in Kupwara district in north Kashmir.

Officials said that soldiers from the 30 Rashtriya Rifles and the SOG were acting on a tip-off. The security forces launched a search operation and soon, the militants hiding in the area opened fire. The gunfight resulted in the death of all the three militants.

Even as the security forces were exchanging bullets with the militants hiding in the area, protests broke near the encounter site and the locals attempted to break the security cordon.

The security personnel fired several rounds in the air and resorted to teargas shelling to disperse the crowd. A civilian, identified as Hilal Ahmad Parrey of Parray Mohalla, was injured in these protests.

An army Major, S Dhaiya, who was earlier injured in a gunfight with militants in Handwara district later succumbed to injuries. “Major S Dhaiya, who was leading the operation in which three militants were killed at Hajin, Handwara on Tuesday succumbed to his injuries sustained in the operation,” Army spokesperson, Col Rajesh Kalia, said.

In the last three days, eight militants, six army soldiers and two civilians were killed while around 35 persons wounded in Kashmir.

Updated Date: Feb 14, 2017 23:33:40 IST