Kashmir attack: Three soldiers killed in an ambush by militants in Shopian district

Lance Naik Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Rather didn't like his uncle buying medication for his aged parents, who are suffering from psychiatric problems. A few days ago, he called his wife, Shahzada Akhtar, to ask if his parents had enough medicine to last them till the time he returned home, this weekend, from his duty.

On Friday, he will return, but in a coffin.

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, Lance Naik Rather was among the three soldiers killed by militants in an ambush when a patrolling party of Army and police was coming back from a search operation in Shopian district of south Kashmir.

The moment the search party reached Mulu Chitragam at 2.00 am on Thursday morning, suspected militants launched the attack by firing indiscriminately at the forces' vehicles, leaving seven soldiers injured, including two officers. Three of the them later succumbed to injuries and the condition of Major Amardeep Singh, according to sources, is very critical.

It was a surprising attack, one that defense analysts believe, could have been planned well in advance by luring the Army into a certain area and while they were coming back, attacking them. The fact that the search operation by the Army was carried out so late in the night also points at the possibility of a trap.

The funeral procession of Taja Begam, who was hit by a bullet inside her house during the exchange of fire between militants and forces. Photo credit: Sameer Yasir

The funeral procession of Taja Begam, who was hit by a bullet inside her house during the exchange of fire between militants and forces. Photo credit: Sameer Yasir

“While returning from Kungnoo, the search party was attacked by unknown militants at Mulu Chitragam at about 2 am resulting in injuries to six army personnel including two officers of whom three succumbed to their injuries,” said a statement issued by police.

The other two soldiers who died in the ambush have been identified as Sapper Sreejit M.J and Vikas Singh Gurjar, while the injured include Lt Col Mukesh Jha, Major Amardeep Singh, Surendra Kumar, Sumer Singh and Ajay Pal.

A woman, Taja Begam, wife of Ghulam Mohammed Mir, of Mulu area too was hit by a bullet inside her house during the exchange of fire between militants and forces. She also succumbed to her injuries.

According to her family, she woke up to the sound of gunfire in the middle of the night and curiosity drove her to the window when she was hit, though it is not clear whose bullet hit her.

Militant organization Hizb-ul-Mujahideen took responsibility for the attack and put the death-toll at seven. In a telephonic statement to a local news gathering agency, Hizb’s operation spokesperson, Burhan-ud-Din, said five army-men were killed and seven were injured in the attack.

The attack follows a series of deadly encounters and a spike in the number of casualties among security forces is a new trend in the valley where militancy related incidents have seen a steep rise in recent months after the end of the summer unrest of 2016.

More then 29 security personnel have been killed, including some in natural calamities, just in the last two months. Shopian is one of the worst militancy affected areas in the south Kashmir. Police say around 100 locals have joined militant ranks in last one year and 59 of them joined after Hizb commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani was killed.

As the news of Rather's death spread, neighbours gathered in his home in Punchpora near Bijbehara town, of south Kashmir. Till Thursday afternoon the parents of the fallen soldier had no idea that their son had been killed. He served in the army for fifteen years and was to retire in the next six months.

“The family was preparing for the wedding of his sister. His parents are old and both have psychiatric issues. He was the only source of income to keep them going,” Mushtaq Ahmad, a neighbour of Rather, told Firstpost over the phone.

Shahzada Akhtar, wife of Lance Naik Rather, has to raise their three-year-old son Aahil. They were wed five years ago and after his retirement, Rather planned to open a shop in the village market. But destiny had something else in store for him.

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Updated Date: Feb 23, 2017 19:44:07 IST

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