Two LeT militants killed, 4 trapped in Pulwama operation
Wanted by NIA for Udhampur recce , Abu Ukasha killed; UAVs track fleeing militants, 6 villages put under cordon
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU, March 9: A cluster of six villages bordering Awantipora and Pulwama Police districts was put under cordon after Army’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) tracked four heavily armed militants fleeing into Galbugh village following the death of two top wanted militants of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba during a major cordon-and-search operation in South Kashmir on Wednesday.
Authoritative sources told STATE TIMES that units of Rashtriya Rifles 50th and 55th battalions, CRPF and Special Operations Groups of Awantipora and Pulwama district Police launched a major crackdown in an area between Awantipora base of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Awantipora headquarters of Army’s counterinsurgent division, Victor Force, after receiving intelligence inputs about the movement of six hardcore militants of LeT in the afternoon.
Trapped in Wandakpora, the militants engaged the security forces and SOG in a fierce encounter for several hours. Two militants were killed and, according to eyewitnesses, another militant sustained critical injuries. However, the residents gathered in large numbers and they provided a shield to the militant while pelting stones and shouting anti-India, pro-Pakistan and pro-Azadi slogans.
Apprehensive of collateral damage, troops called off the operation but put in place an aerial surveillance system. Senior Defence sources said more than one UAVs were put in place, besides other technological support, which tracked the four militants’ passage from Wandakpora to Galbugh village in the evening. Sniffer dogs were also employed to trace the four militants after the security forces spotted a trail of blood from Wandakpora to Galbugh.
Officials associated with the operation revealed to STATE TIMES late in the night that the security forces were trying to zero in on the houses where the four militants were believed to be holed up. However, there was no fresh exchange of gunfire till round midnight. “We are sure to get them all but a possible law and order problem is a major hindrance. It has become a routine since last year that wherever we get the militants trapped, residents create a disturbance to help them hide or escape”, said a senior official supervising the operation.
DIG South Kashmir, Nitish Kumar, said that the two militants killed in the encounter at Wandakpora were identified as Abu Ukasha and Abu Zaid, both from Punjab, Pakistan. Two AK-47 rifles and quantity of other arms and ammunition were recovered along with the two bodies.
Significantly, Ukasha was wanted by National Investigation Agency (NIA) for having reconnoitred the areas on Srinagar-Jammu highway, around Udhampur, headquarters of Army’s Northern Command, before a fidayeen attack on the BSF convoy, near Samroli, on August 5, 2015. LeT militant Naveed was captured alive even as his accomplice was shot dead in retaliatory fire by BSF.
According to sources, Naveed later revealed to his investigators that his LeT colleague Abu Ukasha had carried out reconnaissance of Udhampur area before the militants travelled all the way from South Kashmir and launched a suicide strike. Two BSF men had got killed and 10 others injured in the attack allegedly planned by LeT’s J&K chief Abdul Rehman alias Abu Qasim who was later killed in an encounter with security forcs in Kulgam area of South Kashmir in December 2015.
Meanwhile, Police and security forces launched a search operation in Khimber area on outskirts of Srinagar. They spotted and chased away two militants. Both managed to escape, even as one of them left behind his AK-56 rifle that was seized by Police.