Colonel killed in Kupwara encounter; 3 militants holed up
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Nov 17: Commanding Officer of Rashtriya Rifles 41st battalion, Col. Santosh Mahadik, was killed in an encounter with a group of militants holed up in Manigah forest cover in Kupwara district on Tuesday.
Informed sources in North Kashmir told STATE TIMES that two “Pakistani-looking militants” descended on Manigah village and demanded food for themselves and their ailing associate. However, the villagers refused to cooperate with them and both the militants went back towards the forest. Army’s sources called Col. Mahadik over telephone and told him that two Pakistani militants had entered their village and later gone back towards the jungle.
Leading a unit of his RR 41 Bn, headquartered at Khumriyal, Col. Mahadik reached Manigah within half an hour. As he was ascending towards the forest cover, the militants on the vantage position opened fire and were seen fleeing. Col. Mahadik got critically hit while as one soldier and one SPO also sustained minor injuries.
Col. Mahadik was evacuated and quickly airlifted to Army’s 92 Base Hospital in Srinagar. However, he succumbed to injuries. Reports from Khumriyal and Manigah said that the soldiers were seen weeping over his death as he was an exceptionally popular Army officer. Residents described him as an officer of tremendous public popularity and relations who would never tolerate a soldier’s misbehaviour with any civilian.
During routine patrolling, a unit of RR 41 Bn had accidentally stumbled on the body of an unidentified militant, with an AK-47 rifle in his hand, between Trumnard and Kani Bahak on November 10. Thereupon, troops launched a wide search operation and learned from its sources that a group of four Pakistani militants of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba had infiltrated through the unusual route of Manigah. It learned that the militants seemed to be suffering gangrene and were not fit enough to walk a distance.
Defence sources told STATE TIMES that three militants of the group, who are believed to have infiltrated two to three weeks ago, were still hiding in Manigah forest area and their escape would not be easy. “They are holed up in that very area and will be eliminated in a couple of days”, said an officer.
A Defence spokesman said that Colonel Santosh Mahadik “attained martyrdom while leading his troops in an fierce encounter with a group of three terrorists in Manigah Forest Area”.
“Colonel Mahadik, the Commanding Officer of 41 Rashtriya Rifles made the supreme sacrifice in the highest traditions of the Indian Army. The Colonel was a true soldier and had conducted many successful counter terrorist operations. Originally from the Special Forces, the officer was earlier awarded Sena Medal for exhibiting gallantry and leadership in counter terrorist operations”, said the Defence spokesman in his statement.
Lt Gen DS Hooda, Army Commander, Northern Command expressed deep condolences on the officer’s death. He said: “We owe a deep debt of gratitude to officers like Santosh who lead from the front and are willing to pay the ultimate price in the fight against terrorism.”
“Colonel Mahadik leaves behind his wife and two children aged eleven and five years. The Army is committed to providing all support to the family in this hour of grief”.
In his message, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed conveyed his heart-felt sympathies to the bereaved family and prayed for peace to the departed soul.