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Captain died fighting in Kashmir shootout, insists army

New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) The Indian Army Wednesday stoutly maintained that a captain and two soldiers who were killed during a daylong encounter with militants in Sopore, died fighting and denied reports that the officer was captured and slain.

Captain Devinder Singh Jass, paratrooper Imtiaz Ahmad Thokar and Naik Selva Kumar were from the Special Forces and were part of an operation mounted by the army, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the police. The encounter, which began Tuesday morning, continued late into the night.

Five militants were killed in the fierce exchange of bullets that raged for several hours. A civilian were also injured.

The militants, belonging to various groups, were holed up inside some houses in Sopore’s Chinkipora area, 54km from Srinagar. The special army squad had to be called in after the insurgents, possibly from the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Hizbul Mujahideen put up tough resistance.

‘The officer noticed some suspicious movements and asked for identification. Instead, the militants hurled grenades and resorted to heavy automatic gunfire,’ a senior army official told IANS.

‘Captain Jass was killed in the shoot-out. He received a bullet injury on the left side of his chest.’

There has been speculation that the captain was overpowered by militants and later killed.

But officially, both the army and the police insist that Jass was not taken captive and was killed fighting the militants.

‘He was killed in action. Reports that he was captured and his throat was slit are absolutely incorrect. We have recovered the body. It is absolutely intact barring the bullet wound,’ the officer pointed out.

The body of a slain militant was recovered Wednesday from the debris of two houses destroyed in the gunfight.

A police officer said the debris clearing operation was still on and the bodies of the other slain guerrillas were likely to be under the debris.

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