SRINAGAR Three affiliates of Jaish-e-Mohammad including outfits operational commander, four of army men including a Major, a policeman and a civilian were killed in a gunfight at Pingleena area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Monday.
Five top officers including DIG south Kashmir Amit Kumar and army Brigadier Harbeer Singh were among nine government forces personnel injured in the gunfight that raged for nearly 16 hours after it began around 12:45 a.m. on Monday.
Based on credible inputs about the presence of militants in Pinglena area of South Kashmirs Pulwama district, a cordon and search operation was launched jointly by Police and (government forces) in the intervening night in the area, a police spokesman said.
He said as the searches were going on, militants from inside the target house fired indiscriminately on the search party, he said, adding, In the initial burst of fire four army soldiers and one civilian sustained critical gunshot injuries.
The injured were evacuated to hospital for medical attention and consequently, four injured soldiers and the civilian succumbed to their injuries. The slain soldiers have been identified as Major Vibhuti Shankar Dhoundiyal, Hawaldar Sheo Ram, Sepoy Hari Singh and Sepoy Ajay Kumar. The civilian has been identified as Mushtaq Ahmad Bhat (46).
The fire was retaliated by the (government) forces leading to an encounter, he said.
In the initial stage of the gunfight, two militants were also killed. There was lull and joint team of government forces moved to retrieve bodies of two militants, visible from a distance, a police officer said. However, he said, the militants rose from the rubble of a house razed during the gunfight and opened fire, leading to injuries to a lieutenant colonel and two more soldiers who were evacuated to army hospital where three army personnel, injured in initial phase of fire fight, were shifted.
Later, DIG south Kashmir Amit Kumar and army Brigadier along with three other soldiers, among them a Captain and Major, besides a police head constable Abdul Rashid were injured in the subsequent gunfight before the lone militant was neutralized, the officer said. He said that head constable succumbed to injuries at army hospital. The identity and the group affiliation of the slain militants was being ascertained, the officer said. However, sources identified them as Kamran, the operational commander of JeM besides one local militant Hilal Ahmad Naikoo son of Ghulam Mohammad Naik of Pinglena Pulwama. Hilals body has been handed over to family, they added.
A police officer told news agencies that Kamrans role in the February 14 suicide bombing of a CRPF convoy was under the scanner of investigators.
Regarding DIG Amit Kumar, the police officer said that he suffered injury in the leg. The Brigadier, he said, has suffered injury in the ankle and both of them are stable. Massive clashes were held near the gunfight site and several of them were injured in government forces action even as internet remained suspended. Two houses belonging to Mohammad Abdullah Hajam and Abdul Gani Hajam were completely damaged along with as many cowsheds. A cow was also killed while one more was injured.
Meanwhile, Army paid tribute to four of its soldiers and in a ceremony at BB Cantt, Lt Gen KJS Dhillon, Chinar Corps Commander and all ranks, paid tributes to them. Representatives from other security agencies also joined the ceremony.
Late Major Vibhuti Shankar Dhoundiyal (33) had joined Army in 2011 and hailed from Village Dangwal in Dehradun, Uttrakhand, a defence ministry spokesman said. He is survived by his wife.
Late Havildar Sheo Ram (36) had joined Army in 2000 and hailed from Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan and is survived by his wife and a son, the spokesman said.
Late Sepoy Hari Singh (26), a resident of Haryana had joined Army in 2011 and is survived by his wife and a son.
Late Sepoy Ajay Kumar hailed from Village Bastikri in Meerut, UP. The soldier was 27 years of age and had joined Army in 2012, the spokesman said, adding, Kumar is survived by his wife and a son.
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