A massive military operation to locate ‘hiding militants’ is underway for the last ten days in Gangbal forest areas of Ganderbal district in central Kashmir after the killing of two suspected insurgents, who police believe had infiltrated the Line of Control.
Elite Para-toppers of the Indian Army were airdropped in the mountainous region, which has no road access, after the sighting of a militant group by a stationed army unit.
The Paras have spread across the mountainous terrain fearing that there might a big group of militants, who have infiltrated LoC from remote Gurez area of Bandipora district and are trying to move towards the Tral town in south Kashmir on this traditional militant-route.
“Two militants got killed in sequel operations after contact was established around 9 pm on September 27,” Ganderbal SSP Khalil Poswal told News18, adding that this is the first encounter in the district since 2014. One militant, he said, was killed on the same night and another was killed on the third day.
This is one of the biggest anti-militancy operations launched in the Kashmir Valley after the central government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and divided the state into two union territories.
Operation and Location:
Gangbal is a mountainous area, with a large freshwater lake located in between Gurez and Ganderbal districts. It also connects to the mountains surrounding Srinagar and south Kashmir. The lake is a favorite of foreign tourists for camping and trekking.
Even as the operation is underway, there are a few tourists who are traveling in the area. The police are now mulling to keep a record of the visitors as their vulnerability has increased.
The militants, police believe, have used this traditional route after many years. “It takes three to four days of trekking through rough mountainous terrain from LoC in Gurez to Gangbal,” SSP Poswal told News18. “This route connects to the peripheries of Srinagar and around seven hours of the trek leads to Tral town.”
Tral, the hometown of slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, has been a militant hot-bed for many years. The road in the area ends at a village called Naranag, around 40 kilometers towards the north-east of Srinagar. The location of the operation is around 17km trek road in the mountains.
“The choppers were pressed into the service and Para-commandos airdropped after the militants were besieged,” said SSP Poswal. “It was not possible to send the reinforcement on time otherwise,” he said.
On September 30, locals in Naranag said that around 15 people from the village were picked up by army and police, and were taken to the encounter sight to carry the militant bodies from the location to the nearest graveyard. The locals said they later buried the slain insurgents.
“We were taken to a location called Churnard and there were two dead bodies in a deep gorge,” locals in Naranag village said, wishing to be anonymous. “It took us almost one day to carry each dead body and we were with the army for two nights,” the locals told News18.
Police also confirmed that the militants were buried in the graveyard in the same area.
The militants could not be identified, SSP Poswal said, that is why they were buried there after DNA samples were collected.
A team of two doctors and four other members of medical staff were taken from the hospital for the medical formalities. “The doctors trekked and collected the DNA samples,” he said.
The DNA report is yet to come, but a family from north Kashmir’s Sopore has claimed that one among the slain is their son, who had crossed over to Pakistan on proper passport through Wagah crossing on April 2018.
The police were taken by surprise by the claim as they wondered how the family learned about death as the phone and internet services are snapped in Kashmir.
The police said the family came to believe that their son was killed in the encounter after a relative in Delhi saw the claim in a Facebook post by a person based in Saudi Arabia and relayed the information to them.
As per police, the family said that their son, Kamar-Ud-Din, had left for Nepal from his home. But he went to Pakistan and was listed by forces as C-category militant.
Infiltration Attempts Rise:
The area of the operation has been closed for the civilian movement and journalists don’t have access to the place. After massive chopper movement, there were rumors among the locals that the Army suffered causalities. However, authorities have denied this and called the rumor baseless.
Since August 5, sightings of militants have increased but forces are not able to conduct operations in the residential neighborhoods of Valley. As per police sources, over 450 militant sightings have been reported and there have been around 650 search operations. However, only three operations led to gunfights in which militants were killed.
The forces believe that militants are trying hard to infiltrate into Kashmir valley. Even, as per top police officials, around 60 militants have infiltrated into the valley in the last two months.