The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Murder puts army back on high alert

Chandigarh, Sept. 11: The Indian Army has been again put on high alert — said to be the “highest” since the Kaluchak massacre in May — on the International Border and the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

Army sources here said leave has been cancelled and units have been asked to deploy all manpower in their possession in the strife-torn state.

“We have received specific information of largescale infiltration with orders to target mainstream political activists, army personnel, special police officers and informers along Poonch and Rajouri as the elections draw near. There has also been a step up in cross-border firing and border skirmishes in remote posts along the Line of Control,” a senior defence source said on phone from Rajouri.

He indicated that the Indian armed forces could launch retaliatory attacks in some pockets along the LoC. “The real war will be fought here in the Poonch and Rajouri areas.”

The assassination of Jammu and Kashmir law and parliamentary affairs minister Mushtaq Ahmed Lone and five others at Raidnag in Lolab constituency this afternoon is being seen as the beginning of a series of similar attacks.

“Infiltration of trained terrorists from across the border has again started on a large scale and we have specific information that at least 45 militants, most of them Afghan mercenaries, have entered the Sunderbani area in Rajouri district,” the source added.

Pakistani troops have been directing fire on Indian positions in Mendhar, Naushera and certain other pockets in Rajouri and Poonch districts to provide cover to the infiltrating militants and divert the attention of border patrols. “The firing is very intense and maddening,” the source said.

Militants have been using a ridge on the Pir Panjal ranges bordering Poonch and Rajouri to cross over to the Valley. The sources said the ridge provided them an advantageous position on the top from where they could escape whenever there was movement of security forces in the area. Various militant groups, residents insist, term the vast stretch between Hillkaka near Bafliaz in Poonch to the ridge as a “liberated area” where they ruled the roost.

By intercepting wireless messages, the army has identified more than 20 infiltration routes through which militants were being pushed from Pakistan. Most of the infiltration is said to be taking place from Kunga-ki-Gali, Dunga Gali and Thandi Kassi in Rajouri district. The army is concerned that the Gujjars and the Bakkarwals in certain high reaches of the Pir Panjal were being forced by the mercenaries to function as guides.

Sources said 350 militants are estimated to be operating in Poonch district now, while about 265 are active in the Rajouri and Reasi areas. Many of them have mingled with the local population. More than 24 Afghan mercenaries are reportedly working with the militants in Rajouri district and about 66 in Poonch. They have recently been ordered by their Pakistan masters to strike and shift from one place to another.

Reports with the state government suggest that more than 2,500 militants, including over 1,500 foreign mercenaries, equipped with highly sophisticated weapons have established bases in different parts of Poonch and Rajouri districts. “It is a long term strategy to flood the state with militants and (that) needs to be controlled now,” an army officer said.

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