Monday, 30th October 2017

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Snow trail fatal for 5 elite troopers

The army has gunned down five militants but the combing operation was still on

By Muzaffar Raina in Srinagar
  • Published 7.04.20, 5:04 AM
  • Updated 7.04.20, 5:04 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Indian army soldiers stand guard in Srinagar (AP photo)

Five troopers of the army’s elite special forces died in the Keran area of Kupwara as their four-day hunt through snow on the trail of militant footprints went horribly wrong on the fragile terrain.

The members of the elite Parachute unit are believed to have slipped into a ravine after the snow gave way — straight into where the militants were hiding — triggering what appears to have been a combat at close quarters.

The army has gunned down five militants but the combing operation was still on, just in case more rebels were hiding in the area.

The loss of the five troopers is the worst casualty the security forces have suffered in the Valley since last year’s suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama left 40 jawans dead.

Colonel Rajesh Kalia, the defence spokesperson in Srinagar, said the army had launched a daring operation at the Line of Control and engaged Pakistan-backed infiltrators in a close-quarters battle in heavy snow.

“Four soldiers under the command of a junior commissioned officer from one of the most professional Para SF Units were heli-dropped near the LoC after information on the infiltrators was received. An intense hand-to-hand battle ensued and all five terrorists were eliminated,” the spokesperson said.

“In this battle, however, the army lost five of its best soldiers, three on the site while two more succumbed after they were airlifted to a nearby military hospital.”

The spokesperson said Subedar Sanjeev Kumar (from Himachal Pradesh) led the special forces squad.

The squad also included Havildar Davendra Singh (also from Himachal) and paratroopers Bal Krishan, Amit Kumar (from Uttarakhand) and Chhatrapal Singh from Rajasthan.

They were members of the elite 4 Para, which had undertaken cross-LoC surgical strikes in 2016.

The Kupwara operation began after the security forces spotted an infiltration bid in the area on April 2. The army had rushed its elite commandos to the scene on Saturday evening after a sporadic exchange of fire between the forces and the militants.

Sources said the army had inducted two squads of the elite special forces of 4 Para to hunt down the militants.

“The squad led by Subedar Sanjeev Kumar found some footprints of the militants on the snow. They were tracking the footprints and the snow gave way and they slipped into a ravine where the militants were hiding,” the sources said.

Other soldiers present at the scene zeroed in on the militants and eliminated them after a gunfight.

The sources said the bodies of the soldiers lay a few feet from the bodies of the militants, indicating a hand-to-hand combat.

Police sources said two families from south Kashmir had approached them in Kupwara claiming the militants killed in the Keran gunfight were relatives.

It is not clear how the families learnt their kin had been killed in the gunfight. The police are ascertaining their claim.

The operation underlines Pakistan’s determination to continue pushing in militants despite the Covid-19 outbreak.

Sunday’s killings in Kupwara came a day after the security forces killed four Hizbul Mujahideen militants in a south Kashmir village.

The police said the four militants were involved in the recent murder of three civilians in the area but the claim could not be independently confirmed.

Officials said the exchange of fire between Indian and Pakistani troops continued almost daily.

An official said there had been 411 ceasefire violations across the border in Jammu and Kashmir last month, against 367 and 382 in January and February, respectively.

Two soldiers were injured in Pakistani shelling on the Poonch border on Thursday.