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The Hindu
The Hindu
Peerzada Ashiq

Massive hunt launched for LeT militants in J&K’s Anantnag

Security forces on Thursday intensified its anti-militancy operation in Anantnag in south Kashmir to hunt down the hiding militants behind the killing of three officers, including a Colonel, Major and Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), on Wednesday.

Heavy firing was reported at Gadool hamlet, Kokernag area in Anantnag since Thursday morning and continued the whole day. Official sources said a contact was established with the hiding militants, whose number is between two and three, in the morning when the combing operation was resumed. 

Loud explosions were heard in the thick forest area where the militants are believed to be holed up and using thick foliage and undulating terrain to their advantage. However, no casualties were confirmed officially.   

“Our forces persist with unwavering resolve as they encircle two LET (Lashkar-e-Taiba) terrorists including Uzair Khan,” a police spokesman said.

Preliminary reports suggested that Khan, a local from Kokernag, joined the militant ranks in 2022.  

Security forces had halted the operation on Wednesday night. Sources said security forces pressed into service drones and helicopters to maintain a vigil of the encounter site. Additional troops were also rushed to fortify the cordon in the area.

Three officers, Colonel Manpreet Singh, Major Aashish Dhonchak and Deputy Superintendent of Police Humayan Bhat, were killed on Wednesday in an ambush laid by the militants. These officers were leading an anti-militancy operation when they walked into a trap laid by the militants.

Official sources said Colonel Singh and Major Dhonchak were battle-hardened officers and had earned expertise in counter-insurgency operations in south Kashmir for many years. 

Family members mourn the death of Colonel Manpreet Singh of the Indian Army near at his home near Chandigarh on Thursday. He was killed in a gunfight with terrorists in Anantnag district on Wednesday. (Source: PTI)

However, DSP Bhat, son of former Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Ghulam Hassan Bhat, was recently posted in operations in south Kashmir. Hundreds of locals participated in the last rites of Bhat, who got married last year and became a father recently, on Wednesday night in Srinagar.   

Official sources said the injured officers could not be evacuated immediately from the encounter site due to the positions held by the militants in the area. 

A Srinagar-based Army spokesperson said two more soldiers were injured in the Anantnag operation while retrieving the bodies of Colonel Singh and Major Dhonchak “through specialised operations in the treacherous terrain”.

“In the ensuing operations two more personnel have been injured. The operation is still under progress,” the Army said.

The Army said the operation on Wednesday was launched based on leads obtained during the search of a village. “It was ascertained that the terrorists were in a hideout in the higher reaches above the village, which was covered with dense foliage and undergrowth,” the Army said.

The Army said both the deceased Army officers had earned Sena Medals.

Meanwhile, J&K Lieutenant-Governor Manoj Sinha, accompanied by senior Army, police and civilian officers, laid wreaths to pay homage to the soldiers at Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar on Thursday.

“The mortal remains of Col. Singh and Maj. Dhonchak have been transported by a special aircraft for the last rites to their native hometowns, where they would be laid to rest with full military honours. In this hour of grief, the Indian Army stands in solidarity with the bereaved families and remains committed to their dignity, safety and wellbeing,” the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the Jammu Shiv Sena and the Dogra Front held protests in Jammu against Pakistan. Protesters accused Pakistan of stoking militant violence in Jammu & Kashmir.  

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