Four soldiers, including a Major, a policeman, and three Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists were killed in a 16-hour encounter that broke out in Pinglena area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, about 12 km away from the area where a suicide bomber last week rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into a CRPF convoy last week, killing 40 personnel. A civilian, who received gunshot injuries, also succumbed later in the hospital.
The J&K Police and security forces launched a cordon and search operation in the area during the intervening night after receiving inputs about the presence of militants there. However, militants started firing indiscriminately at the forces in course of the search operation, triggering a gun battle.
An Army Brigadier, DIG South Kashmir Amit Kumar, and a Lt Colonel suffered injuries in course of the encounter. The slain soldiers have been identified as Major VS Dhondial, Havaldar Sheo Ram and sepoys Hari Singh and Ajay Kumar. The deceased policeman has been identified as Head Constable Abdul Rashid Kalas.
Two of the slain terrorists have been identified as Hilal Naiko, a resident of Pinglena, and Kamran, a Pakistani national whose role in the February 14 terror attack on the CRPF convoy at Lethpora is being probed. The identity of the third is being ascertained.
Kamran had taken over as operational commander of the JeM after Mufti Waqas was killed in an encounter in February last year. According to police records, Kamran had been active in Pulwama and Awantipora since 2017 and was wanted for a series of attacks on security establishments.
A police statement said Kamran was responsible for the recruitment of local youth and relied extensively on the old JeM network of terrorist Noor Trali and Mufti Waqas.
The police also recovered arms and ammunition, including rifles, from the encounter site. “People are requested to cooperate with police till the area is completely sanitised and cleared of all the explosives materials if any,” the police statement said.
The Army paid tributes to the deceased soldiers at a ceremony at Badami Bagh Cantonment, headquarters of the 15 Corps in Srinagar. Major Dhondial, 33, had joined the Army in 2011 and belonged to Dangwal village in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. He is survived by his wife.