12 Hr Long Gunbattle Near Sopore, 5 Killed

SRINAGAR:  At least five militants were killed in a fierce 12-hour gun battle with the government forces on Tuesday during an operation underway outside Sopore for the past six days, the police and reports said.

The police claimed that the slain militants belonged to the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba group, and four of them were foreigners. The only militant said to have been identified so far reportedly hailed from a locality in the same town.

The bodies of the militants were retrieved from the rubble of two residential houses blasted with explosives after a prolonged exchange of gun and mortar fire.

The encounter took place in the Saidapora neighbourhood on the town’s outskirts which along with Tcher Haar, Mandji, Botengo and some other adjoining villages and forests has been under a joint police, paramilitary and army operation since December 12.

Today’s fatalities took the militant toll in the operation to 8, three militants having been killed in two separate gunfights in Mandji and Tcher Haar last Thursday.   

Troops had come under heavy fire in Saida Pora this morning on moving in for searches after a tip-off about 5 to 7 militants being holed up in residential houses.

One militant is said to have been killed in the early stages of the fighting, and others apparently fell as their lair was blown up with explosives.

Villagers had fled homes for safer places as the battle intensified, with heavy detonations punctuating the gunfire.   

The inspector general of police (IGP) for Kashmir, SM Sahay, said that the Lashkar module had recently based itself in Sopore to carry out militant operations across North Kashmir.

According to the IGP, the militants had entered the area because the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba had been almost totally wiped out from the town.

The police officer said that today’s battle was a major blow to the LeT and success for the forces in the region.

Reports coming in last said that intermittent firing was still going on and the operation in the area had not been scaled down as more militants were suspected to be sheltering in villages and forests.

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