The Army Monday said five personnel of the Para (Special Forces) were killed in “hand-to-hand” combat with militants near the Line of Control (LoC) in Kupwara district.
A day earlier, the Army had said five militants and three soldiers were killed in a gunbattle. This was the first major operation near the LoC in Kashmir this year.
Confirming the death of five of the elite para commandos, Srinagar-based defence spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia said: “Four soldiers under the command of a Junior Commissioned Officer from one of the most professional Para SF units were air-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 operation began on April 1 when Army personnel deployed on the LoC intercepted a group of militants in Jamgund forest in Kupwara and a brief exchange of fire took place.
A search operation was launched in the snow-covered forests and additional forces were moved to the area. The para commandos were air-dropped.
Col. Kalia said the Army launched “a daring operation at the Line of Control and engaged Pak-supported infiltrators in a close quarter battle in heavy snow, neutralising the entire infiltrating batch of five”.
“In this battle, however, Army lost five of its best soldiers, three on the site and two more succumbed while they were airlifted to a nearby military hospital,” he said.
The Army said that the Special Forces squad led by Subedar Sanjeev Kumar included Havildar Davendra Singh, Paratrooper Bal Krishan, Paratrooper Amit Kumar and Paratrooper Chhatrapal Singh.
A senior officer privy to the Keran operation said that Special Forces soldiers, while chasing the militants in the snow, slipped into a nallah where the militants were present. “There was face-to-face battle,” the officer said.
The officer said “tough weather conditions” in the high altitude area hampered the evacuation of injured soldiers during the operation.
Defence sources said that the slain Army personnel belonged to 4 Para — a unit that was also involved in the 2016 surgical strikes across the LoC.
While the Army has not said anything about the identification of the militants killed in the firefight, three families from South Kashmir have approached Kupwara authorities, claiming that their kin are among the slain militants.
Kupwara Superintendent of Police Shriram Ambarker told The Indian Express that the mission was over, but search operations were still on in the area.
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