Tral encounter: Dramatic 16-hour shootout shows that the militants were extraordinarily well-stocked

The two militants who were killed by the army on Sunday morning near Tral after a dramatic 16-hour shootout had an amazing stock of ammunition. The two kept firing through the night. The longest break was for 30 to 45 minutes.

A very senior army officer expressed amazement at the amount of ammunition they had used. They avoided bursts, firing one shot at a time, he added, but kept at it almost incessantly.
The cordon which was laid around 4 pm on Saturday afternoon, pinned down Aqib, a high-grade militant of the Hizbul Mujahideen, and Usman, a Pakistani of the Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The duo stopped their incessant firing at around 6 am on Sunday. Aqib uploaded a farewell video in whispers around that time.

However, there were still signs at around 8 am that at least one was alive. It was only at about 8.30 am that the army was able to kill the second militant.

IED explosions

The most dramatic moment of the encounter came in the early hours of the morning, when Major Rishi and another soldier sneaked up to the house in which the militants were, to set an IED.

They were apparently spotted, for one of the militants emerged and fired at Rishi. His upper jaw and nose was injured, but the bullet did not pierce his brain. His companion promptly returned fire and the two were able to return. "Rishi is fine," a senior officer said confidently when the encounter ended.

An early attempt to blow up the house with IEDs late on Saturday evening had been only partially successful, leaving a part of it standing. The house was finally brought down on Sunday morning.

However, it was a 'kutcha' house with 'ballis' of wood. So, both militants apparently survived and continued to fire from the debris.

The militants tried to break out of the cordon at around 3 am but could not break the cordon. They were forced to withdraw into the house and continue the firefight.

Tough task

Laying the cordon had been a Herculean task on the previous evening, as it often has been since early 2014. For, once again, people from surrounding villages came rushing to try and prevent the cordon, and to try and let the militants escape.

Large crowds had emerged from about 4 or 5 pm on Saturday afternoon too, when the army tried to cordon the house in the picturesque Shikargah area in the hills east of Tral.

But the congregation of people was blocked by effective deployment of police and paramilitary troops in the area. They fired in the air, forcing the people back. Curfew was then announced, and the CRPF set up roadblocks, while the army began to engage the militants.

The police and the CRPF were in charge of ensuring that people did not get close enough to interfere with the army’s operation against the militants.

One policeman, Manzoor Ahmad Naik, was killed during the operation. He belonged to the 11th battalion of the Indian Reserve Police. Another, Gulzar Ahmad of the anti-militancy Special Operations Group, was injured. A stray bullet also hit a CRPF man.

Heavily armed

Militants of this sort are normally armed with four magazines, but this duo seemed to be extraordinarily well stocked. This raises questions about the level of armaments available to militants now. Aqib is rated as a A++ militant.

There were some reports that Sabzar Bhat, who was said to be designated the 'operational commander' of Hizb in the Valley, was caught in the cordon, along with a Pakistani Jaish man. But a very senior army officer confirmed that Sabzar was not there.

Updated Date: Mar 05, 2017 12:28 PM

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