With the military operation against infiltrators in Kupwaras Keran sector almost over,the Army is conducting final mopping-up operations in the rugged terrain,with troops moving with extreme caution to clear the area of possible booby traps or mines.
The gun battle is said to have ended as there has been no exchange of fire for four days now,with militants in a tightly cordoned area near the Line of Control,where 30-40 militants had tried to sneak in for a likely raid on an Indian patrol party.
While it seems that most of the militants,who were first engaged on the night of September 23,have escaped the area and the bodies of any of the 10-12 claimed to be killed are unlikely to be recovered,the unusual pattern of the incident suggests that it was more than a simple infiltration attempt.
Unlike the firefight Friday morning in the Gujjar Dar area in Keran,which is 6 km from the cordoned off site and where three infiltrators were shot dead,the militants who fought with troops on September 23 are believed to have come in specifically to target an Indian patrol party.
As reported,troops were being changed in the Keran sector with the 3/3 Gorkha regiment taking charge from 20 Kumaon. The changeover is a delicate period as troops take time to get familiar with the terrain and the suspected militants are believed to have been tasked to take on a patrol party.
Such an attack had taken place in Poonch in August and five soldiers were killed in a cross-border raid.
As indicated by the 15 Corps Commander,the terrorists are believed to have been a part of a special border action team that was looking to strike on a patrol party. However,in this instance,the Army received specific intelligence about the infiltration attempt in Keran and was ready for them.
After the movement was detected on the night of September 23,Indian troops fired on the infiltrators,leading to a fierce gun battle. The fighting continued for a few days during which the terrorists took cover in dilapidated structures and abandoned huts in the area. It got prolonged as the militants got trapped in a cordon and could not move back without help from a nearby Pakistani post.
As things turned out,no help came from the Pakistani post but most militants are believed to have returned,taking advantage of the terrain and harsh weather conditions. The Army,however,is still hopeful of inflicting casualties. They have been stopped,prevented. Some of them have been neutralised. Operations are on to flush them out. It is a matter of time, Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh said.
The Army is dominating them from all sides and the terrorists are holed up. It is a broken ground. It is difficult,treacherous terrain. They are stuck in that and we will take them on. It is a question of time, he said.
The Army is also going slow with the combing operations as it is looking out for traps the retreating terrorists may have laid.
These operations take time as terrorists have to be flushed out and we do not want casualties from our side. Also,the post of Pakistan is just across. They can fire on our post as well. So,we will have to exercise all precaution in carrying out such operations, Gen Singh said.