FOUR ARMY personnel including a Major, a policeman and three Jaish-e-Mohammad militants — including its “operations chief” whose role in the attack on the CRPF convoy last week is being investigated — were killed in an encounter in Pulwama district of South Kashmir on Monday. A civilian was also killed.
An Army Brigadier, a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police and a Lieutenant Colonel were also injured in the 17-hour gunbattle in Pinglena village, just 15 km from Lethpora, where a suicide bomber rammed his vehicle laden with explosives into a CRPF convoy, killing 40 personnel, on February 14.
The Army personnel who were killed have been identified as Major V S Dhoundiyal (33), Havaldar Sheo Ram (36) and Sepoys Hari Singh (26) and Ajay Kumar (27). The policeman has been identified as Abdul Rashid, a head constable.
While police said they were investigating the role of the dead Jaish ‘commander’, Kamran, in Thursday’s attack, sources said the car bomber, Adil Ahmad Dar, was part of his module. Asked if Kamran had masterminded the Lethpora attack, J&K DGP Dilbagh Singh said:
“We are verifying all that. That is part of our investigation. We would not like to say much on that… But there are fair indications that they were, one way or the other, involved in the (Lethpora) attack”.
Of the other two militants killed on Monday, one was identified as Hilal Ahmad Naikoo (23), a resident of Pulwama, while the other was identified as Rashid alias Gazi alias Lukman from Pakistan.
According to sources, on Sunday night, at around 12.30 am, a joint team of the J&K Police, Army and paramilitary forces cordoned off Pinglena village in Pulwama district, following intelligence inputs about the presence of some Jaish-e-Mohammad militants. When the joint team was laying a cordon around the target houses, militants opened indiscriminate fire, killing four soldiers.
While there was silence for several hours after that, fresh firing started in the morning as the joint team launched searches in the area. The intermittent exchange of fire during the day lasted for nine hours. While two of the militants were killed early on, the last militant kept shifting from one house to another, said sources.
A policeman was killed, while the Army’s 12 Sector Rashtriya Rifles Commander Brigadier Harbir Singh, DIG Police (South Kashmir) Amit Kumar and a Lieutenant Colonel, who is yet to be identified, were injured during the day.
This is the first time that a DIG and Brigadier have been injured in a gunfight with militants in the Valley. Police officers said both the officers were stable.
“They (militants) were battle-hardened,” said a senior police officer. “While we managed to kill two of them early, one of them put up a tough fight”.
A civilian, Mushtaq Ahmad Bhat (35), was also killed. While police said he was caught in the cross-fire, residents alleged that he was shot after being taken out of his house. His house and two other houses were razed in the encounter.