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Army captain, four militants killed in Kashmir battle

Srinagar, March 4 (IANS) An Indian Army captain was killed, the second loss of an officer in less than 10 days in Jammu and Kashmir, and four guerrillas of the Hizbul Mujahideen terror outfit were shot dead in a gunfight Thursday, officials said.

Captain Deepak Sharma was killed in the battle which began Wednesday and resumed Thursday morning in Dadsara village, 35 km from here in south Kashmir Pulwama district, army spokesman Col J.S. Brar told reporters.

Sharma, from Rohtak in Haryana, was in the army for six years, and was serving the counter-insurgency Rashtriya Rifles in the terror-riven state.

‘Four militants were killed. Their bodies have been recovered from under the debris (of the house which was razed in the shootout),’ Brar said.

A police official said the four slain militants were locals and belonged to the Hizbul Mujahideen, which is the biggest terror outfit in Kashmir with its base in Pakistan.

The militant group mostly draws its members from the state unlike other outfits like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed that have foreign guerrillas fighting in the valley and other Muslim-dominated areas of Jammu and Kashmir.

The slain militants have been identified as Mohammed Amin Mir alias Mitha, Shabir Ahmed Mir, Khalid (known only by his first name) and Ghulam Mohammed Mir alias Janwar.

The police official said that the operation lasted for over 30 hours and the army and police were busy in the mopping up operation. The civilians living in the house and around had already been evacuated.

‘The firing has stopped and soldiers are looking for hidden explosives under the debris,’ the police officer said.

He said three soldiers were wounded in the gunfight that came after less than 10 days of a north Kashmir shootout in Sopore town. The battle on Feb 23 claimed the life of Captain Devinder Singh Jass, a young officer from Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh.

The south Kashmir gun battle erupted Wednesday morning after police, paramilitary forces and the army in a joint operation surrounded a house in the village. They said they had a specific input about presence in the house of a group of heavily armed guerrillas, suspected to be of the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

As the security forces challenged the hiding guerrillas to surrender, they opened fire, triggering heavy exchange of bullets, the police officer said.

The house in which militants were hiding was blasted Wednesday evening. One militant was killed before the operation was suspended due to darkness.

The other holed up guerrilla managed to enter an adjacent house in the cover of the darkness. The heavy exchange of fire resumed Thursday morning.

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