Four Army personnel, including a Major, and four militants were killed in two separate encounters in the Hajin and Kralgund Handwara areas of North Kashmir on Tuesday, according to government and security officials.
Officials identified the officer, who succumbed to injuries suffered in Kralgund, as Major S Dahiya. “Further details of the officer will be intimated later,” said an Army spokesman. The soldiers, who died in Hajin, were identified as Patrolman Dharmendra Kumar from Nainital in Uttarakhand, Rifleman Ravi Kumar from Samba in J&K and Grenadier Astosh Kumar from Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh.
Three other officers, including a Commanding Officer of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), were injured in the two encounters, said officials. Three civilians were also injured — one during the Hajin encounter and two in protests that followed in the area and neighbouring Saderkote village.
Describing the security operation in Hajin, officials said the Army’s 13 Rashtriya Rifles, the Special Operation Group of J&K Police and the CRPF launched an operation at the Parray Mollah locality to nab militants hiding in a two-storeyed house.
As soon as the operation got underway, the militants started firing at the assault party, injuring eight soldiers, including the CO of CRPF 45 Battalion, Chetan Chetah, said officials. Three of the soldiers succumbed to injuries on way to hospital. A civilian, Hilal Ahmad Parray, was also injured.
In another operation late afternoon in Handwara, three militants believed to be foreigners and the Army Major were killed. Officials said the Army launched an operation in Khan Mollah locality of Kralgund following a tip-off. “Three weapons were recovered from the possession of militants,” said an Army spokesman.
Meanwhile, a defence spokesman confirmed that three soldiers had lost their lives in the Hajin encounter. “Five soldiers were injured and a foreign militant killed,’’ said the spokesman.
Police officers said the militant killed in the operation was a foreigner who had been active in the area for some time. “The militants used grenade launchers to target the assault parties. It appears that the militants were prepared when the operation was launched,’’ a senior officer, who was part of the operation, told The Indian Express.
CRPF spokesman Rajesh Yadav said the CO was injured in the initial assault. “The officer was shifted to the Army base hospital and after his condition was assessed as critical, airlifted to New Delhi.” Six policemen also sustained minor injuries, he said.
As the encounter was in progress, police and CRPF clashed with protesters trying to march towards the site. Two protesters were injured, with one of them, Riyaz Ahmad, suffering pellet injuries. Sources said one militant managed to escape the security cordon.
This is the sixth encounter in Hajin and its adjoining areas since November. The town was known for the local Ikhwan, or the anti-insurgency force. However, officials said, militants have managed to establish bases in Hajin town and its adjoining areas, and are using this location as a transit point to enter towns in south Kashmir.
Since Sunday, six soldiers, eight militants and two civilians have been killed after forces launched targeted operations against militants in north and south Kashmir.