THREE ARMY personnel were killed and four injured as militants ambushed an Army convoy in Shopian district of Kashmir early on Thursday morning. A woman was also killed in the crossfire. Army officers said the security personnel may have been “lured” to the area.
The soldiers who were killed have been identified as Lance Naik Ghulam Mohiuddin Rather from Bijbehara in South Kashmir, Sapper Sreejith M J from Palakkad in Kerala and Sepoy Vikas Singh Gurjar from Rajasthan. Two officers — Lt Colonel Mukesh Jha and Major Amardeep Singh — are among those injured. The latter is reported to be critical, but stable.
Claiming responsibility for the attack, a Hizbul Mujahideen spokesperson, Burhan-ud-Din, told a local news agency that a squad of militants targeted the security personnel and escaped.
According to sources, a joint team of 44 Rashtriya Rifles and police personnel had gone to Daramdor village late on Wednesday evening following specific intelligence inputs. The operation did not yield any result and was called off at about 9 pm, when they received another intelligence input about the presence of militants at Kungnoo village in Shopian.
Confirming this, Shopian Superintendent of Police Tahir Saleem said the security personnel were returning from a cordon-and-search operation at Kungnoo when they were attacked. “The operation concluded without any arrest or recovery. While returning from Kungnoo, the search party was attacked by unknown militants at Mulu Chitragam, at about 2 am,” he said.
An Army officer said “it cannot be ruled out that the soldiers were lured into the situation.” Sources said the militants had blocked the road with logs of wood. When the Army vehicles slowed down, the militants opened fire, and later escaped under the cover of darkness, said sources.
While there have been attacks on army convoys on highways in the past, Thursday’s attack was different as it seemed to have been a well-planned ambush.
The SP said a woman identified as Taja, wife of Ghulam Mohammed Mir of Mulu, was hit by a stray bullet inside her house during the crossfire and later succumbed to her injuries.
“An army column was fired at by militants at Chitragam in Shopian, in which three soldiers and a civilian were killed. Such incidents have only strengthened our resolve to continue relentless operations against Pakistan-sponsored anti-nationals in the Kashmir Valley,’’ said an army spokesman.
Nine soldiers, including an officer, have been killed in three attacks in South Kashmir, Hajin and Kralgund Handwara in February.
Meanwhile, villagers alleged that security forces had ransacked their houses and arrested some residents.
(With inputs from ENS, New Delhi)