Srinagar: Five Army soldiers, including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO), were killed in Poonch area of Jammu in a fresh gunfight that broke out between armed forces and a group of militants on Monday.
According to a defence spokesperson, fresh firing has been reported from the area where two to three gunmen are believed to be entrapped. The victims were rushed to a nearby hospital but succumbed to their injuries, Two others injured in the gunfight have been evacuated to the nearest medical facility for treatment, official sources said.
The Army spokesman had earlier said that the gunfight broke out between militants and the security forces after the Army launched a cordon and search operation in several villages close to Deera Ki Gali in Surankote area following an intelligence input. The area is close to Line of Control (LoC) and falls in the Chamrair forest area, south of the Pir Panjal Range.
The Indian Army statement said that the operation was launched after receiving infiltration inputs. “Additional enforcement was rushed to the spot to ensure no further injuries and to nab the terrorists. Taking the advantage of the dense forest area of the DKG, the terrorists opened fire at the Indian Army,” the official statement read.
An Army official added that more details are awaited as the “encounter is still underway.”
Officials in the security establishment had warned of an insurgency spill-over in Jammu division earlier this year with militant groups using traditional routes for infiltration and sending arms and ammunition, including through unmanned aerial vehicles.
Infiltration attempts by militants have increased since then in these areas with higher number of contacts between security forces and militants being reported. This is, however, the first such incident which has witnessed a high casualty.
Cross-border violence, especially ceasefire violations, had ebbed along the LoC since India and Pakistan agreed to uphold the ceasefire in March this year. Since then, however, an increase in attempts to send arms and ammunition has been witnessed from the territory.
The total number of deaths reported from the region in the past week has reached a dozen.
Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing a fresh wave of violence, especially since last week, as seven civilians have been killed by suspected militants from the Resistance Front (TRF) group. The victims included at least three from the minority communities. The National Investigation Agency is currently carrying out a series of raids and searches in the region as a part of investigation and crackdown against militancy networks operating in the territory.
In another gunfight reported from North Kashmir’s Bandipora area, at least one militant was reported to have been killed by government forces. He was identified as Imtiyaz Ahmad Dar, a local of the area, Jammu and Kashmir police accused of being involved in one of the civilian killings.
The killing of five soldiers has been condemned by many including the political parties based in the region. “We express our sympathy with the family members of the martyred soldiers who laid down their lives while fighting the militants. Their supreme sacrifice will always be remembered,” Apni Party’s Altaf Bukhari said.