Silence and boom of guns alternate in Kashmir gunfight

Jammu, July 17 (Calcutta Tube) There is silence during the nights and the mornings erupt with the boom of guns in Beri Rakh forests in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district where a gun battle between the Indian Army and terrorists has been on for the past four days, and claimed the life of a major and injured 11 other army personnel.

In one of the longest running gun battles between the army and terrorists – it’s the fifth day Saturday. Among the 11 injured are a colonel, a major and a junior commissioned officer (JCO). The condition of four of them is critical.

Two of the four terrorists, who had come from across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan, have also been killed in Beri Rakh in Mendhar area, 230 km north of Jammu.

But the remaining two have been playing hide and seek with the security personnel, keeping their guns silent for most of the time during nights, because the spark of gun shots and grenade explosions would give out their location.

They usually fire during day time, especially during early mornings, when the army columns rotate their duty in the cordon, army sources said.

The fighting started Tuesday night, and it is continuing with intermittent gunfire from both the sides.

The troops have been scanning, practically inch by inch, the thick forests. The dense forests are posing a serious challenge to the troops who are trying to find out the footprints of the terrorists.

‘There are four of them (terrorists),’ General Officer Commanding of 16 corps Lt Gen Rameshwar Roy told reporters Thursday when he returned to Jammu after visiting the gun battle site in Poonch district.

The army lost Major Amit Thenge, and 11 others, including Colonel Ajay Katoch and Major J. Shekhawat, were injured.

‘Our cordon is there. The terrorists are operating from one side to the other, but we hope to get them,’ Gen Roy whose troops are involved in the operation had stated.

The troops along the LoC and in the hinterland in Jammu region operate under the jurisdiction of 16 Corps headquartered at Nagrota, 13 km from the state’s winter capital Jammu.

On the fifth day, this war of nerves is on. ‘The operation is on,’ an army officer said.

The terrorists infiltrated into the Indian side July 11. The locals informed the police and army about their movements. However, the first contact was made July 13 night.

The terrorists had lobbed grenades and opened gun fire on the approaching troops, killing Major Thenge and injuring six others, including Col Katoch.

Since then intensive searches and occasional gunfight has been going on. For how long will this war of nerves last, there are no guesses.

(Binoo Joshi can be contacted at binoo.j@ians.in)

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