J&K: Kokernag Gunfight in Which a cop and two Army Officers Were Killed Continues for Third day
Security personnel during the ongoing encounter with terrorists, at Gadol Kokarnag in Anantnag district, Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. (PTI Photo)
Srinagar: The encounter in Kashmir's Kokernag area of Anantnag district, in which two Army officers and a police officer were killed, continued for the third day as firing resumed on Friday amidst heavy security presence.
According to official sources, during the operation in South Kashmir's Garol forest, two Army officers have also been injured, and another is "missing". The sources added that top army and police officers, including the Director General of Police (DGP) and the Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), are personally monitoring the situation.
The encounter began on the intervening night of September 12 and 13, following which the security officials established a cordon to track the militants, who were believed to be present in a "hideout" in the higher reaches of a village covered in dense forests.
Srinagar-based defence spokesperson of the Indian Army, Lt Colonel M K Sahu, in a statement, said that the search columns to the higher reaches were being led from the front by Col Manpreet Singh, the Commanding Officer of the 19 Battalion of the Army's Rashtriya Rifles and Major Aashish Dhonchak, the company commander of the 19 RR Bn.
"The columns moved through re-entrants and rugged terrain which had dense foliage and undergrowth, following which the troops came under heavy fire at about 12:30 pm on Wednesday, to which they retaliated," he said.
In the ensuing firefight, however, Col Manpreet Singh, Maj Aashish Dhonchak, and Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) Humayun Muzzamil Bhat suffered gunshot wounds and later succumbed to their injuries.
Sahu added that the mortal remains of Singh and Dhonchak were retrieved through specialised operations in the "treacherous" terrain.
The official added that 41-year-old Singh, who had joined the Army in 2005, belonged to Panchkula, Haryana, and is survived by his wife and two young children. Dhonchak, 34 years old, had joined the Indian Army in 2013 and belonged to Panipat, Haryana and is survived by his wife and a young daughter.
The killings of the three officers were widely condemned in the region by the political leadership and members of the civil society. Several protests and candlelight marches were carried out in the region, including North Kashmir's Kupwaram Bandipora and South Kashmir's Kulgam districts. The demonstrators, which included friends and acquaintances of the trio, held placards with condolence messages to the victims' families.
The political leadership and top officials from civil and police administration, including the Lt. Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, visited the family of DSP Bhat, whose father, Ghulam Hassan Bhat, retired as Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir in 2018.
"How many times shall we condemn? Will condemnations bring him back? He was just married last year. At this age, youngsters plan their lives ahead, but unfortunately, Kashmiris continue to become ornaments of the graveyard," President of the People's Democratic Party Mehbooba Mufti said during her visit to Bhat's family.
Wednesday's attack is the first such attack in which top-ranking security officials were killed. Earlier, during a gunfight at Chanjmulla village in Kupwara, five army personnel, including a colonel and a major rank officer, were killed on May 2, 2020.
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