The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sneak-in blood on melting snow

Srinagar/New Delhi, July 16: The army reportedly killed over 30 militants this week as it fought several infiltration attempts across the Line of Control.

As the spurt in violence continued in Jammu and Kashmir, 16 people were killed in three major firefights today. The toll in the battle at Gurez that broke out midweek rose to 11 with two militants succumbing to bullet injuries this morning.

Army sources in Srinagar and New Delhi said they had anticipated a spurt in infiltration attempts from April through September with the snow melting in the passes. Some of the heaviest snowfall in recent years occurred this winter and during the early summer.

Army sources in New Delhi said the reason for the high number of kills was that detection of infiltration had become easier with the sensors on the fence along the Line of Control. Also, new and improved surveillance equipment were being used.

They said it was possible that militants were seeking to take advantage of the heavy snowfall that covered the fence in some stretches and even buried some sensors. But the damage is being repaired and some 80 per cent of the work has already been completed.

In Gurez, where a battle with infiltrators in the thick pine forests had lasted about four days, the weather was still difficult and visibility was poor at heights of around 14,000 feet. “Firing has stopped but the searches are still going on to trace the slain intruders in the sector,” defence spokesman Lt Col V.K. Batra told The Telegraph in Srinagar.

Since the snow started melting in April, there have been 16 infiltration attempts, in which the security forces have killed 77 intruders.

“The troops of the army guarding the LoC in the Gulmarg sector spotted a group of nine intruding militants late this morning who were challenged immediately after they crossed into our side. They were immediately surrounded,” Lt Col Batra said.

“The group resorted to heavy automatic firing on the surrounding troops and this resulted in an encounter in village Chottali Somavalli that lasted for nearly three hours. All the nine intruders have been killed.”

Police sources said a six-year-old girl, identified as Naseema, also died in the firefight and a mud hut was destroyed. He said the army had foiled another infiltration bid in the Keran sector of the Line of Control in Kupwara in which four infiltrators were killed.

At Ikhini Nullah in the Sunderbani area of Rajouri sector, three more militants were reported killed about 120 km north of Jammu.

Army sources said a battalion commander of the Al Badr, Haroon Rashid, was killed in an encounter with the security forces at Bon-Watseer in Handwara area of Kupwara district, according to an agency report. An army jawan, Sepoy Hem Singh of 21 Rashtriya Rifles, also died in the gunbattle.

Two militants were killed in an encounter with troops of 14 Grenadiers at Rangwar.

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