Kupwara gunfight ends after 48 hours; Foreign militants killed in ‘difficult’ operation: IGP

Srinagar, March 22: All the five suspected Lashker-e-Toiba militants killed in the 48-hour long Kupwara encounter in north Kashmir were foreigners, the police said .
Apart from the five militants, the fierce gun-battle which ended also claimed the lives of three Army men and two policemen.
According to police, the encounter broke out in the Halmatpora area, at least 8 kms from the Line of Control (LoC), after a police party intercepted a group of militants.
A joint team of the Kupwara police along with companies of the Army, the Territorial Army (TA) and the CRPF were engaged in the operation which began Tuesday morning.
According to sources, the group of militants sneaked in nearly 8 kms across the Line of Control (LoC) after crossing two ridges of the Shamsabari mountain range.
The militants had met their “reception party” (overground workers and militants already present in the Valley) after crossing the LoC and were proceeding towards Kupwara town when they were spotted by police personnel, officials said.
The militants, who were hiding inside a mosque, started running towards the forest, but not before four of them were killed by the security forces on Tuesday. The fifth militant, who hid at a height and was firing on the approaching security forces, was killed last evening.
A police spokesman said in the encounter, five militants were neutralised.
All are believed to be foreign militants and part of a group that had freshly infiltrated the LoC, he added.
Asserting that the operation conducted in the woods at frontier Kashmir district of Kupwara was ‘very difficult’ due to dense forest, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kashmir S P Pani said all the five militants killed in the encounter were foreigners.
Pani further said that preliminary investigation revealed that the militants belonged to Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT).
”It was a very difficult operation, as it was conducted in an open area and thick forests.
The forces had to take extra precaution, while conducting this operation,” Pani told reports here, on the sidelines of the wreath laying ceremony of a policeman killed in the gunfight, at Halmatpora forests of Kupwara.
He said a huge cache of arms and ammunition was recovered from the encounter site.
Sources said that early Monday morning some gunshot was heard soon after forces intensified the search operation to trace out the two remaining militants who were part of the group of seven. The forces also pressed sniffer dogs, drones and helicopters to find out the fleeing.
Later, the operation called off after the search parties and the BDS sanitized the entire area, they said.
The army had rushed reinforcement of 5 Bihar and 4 para commandos to the encounter site and had cordoned off the peripheries of the Halmatpora forests to prevent militants to escape.
The encounter started when a group of militants believed to be seven in number fired upon a joint team of army and SOG at Check Fatehkhan forests on Tuesday afternoon.
“We have recovered arms and ammunition in large quantity. All those killed are foreign militants,” said IGP Kashmir SP Pani.  Prima facie it appears they are related to LeT: IGP told reporters.
Meanwhile, five militants who were killed in Kupwara have been buried at Chowkibal in the north Kashmir district during mid-night.
Official sources said that police took the assistance of local Auqaf committee and buried the militants at Rangwar area of Chowkibal.
A police officer also confirmed the burial of all the five militants at Rangwar area.
Meanwhile, wreath-laying ceremonies were held in Srinagar and Kupwara for the policemen and soldiers died in a two-day long gunfight with militants in north Kashmir.
Defense spokesperson in a statement issued here said that the Army today paid a befitting tribute to three of its comrades who lost his life during the operation in Kupwara in which five militants were killed.
“In a solemn ceremony at BB Cantt, Lt Gen AK Bhatt, Chinar Corps Commander and all ranks, paid homage to the soldiers who lost their lives on behalf of a proud nation. In a show of solidarity, representatives from other security agencies also joined in paying their last respects to the martyrs,” the spokesman said.
Late Havaldar Jorabar Singh, Nk Ranjeet Khalkho and Nk Mohd Ashraf Rather sustained bullet injuries in Chack Fatheh Khan Forest in Halmatpora of Kupwara district. They were provided immediate first aid and evacuated to hospital but unfortunately succumbed to their injuries, the spokesman said.
Jorabar Singh, 45 years of age, had joined Army in 1993 and hailed from Village Rait in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh. He is survived by his wife and three children, he said.
Coming from Village Dudhakhuti in Ranchi, Jharkhand, the slain Nk Ranjeet Khalkho was 33 years old and had joined Army in 2001. He is survived by his parents, a brother and three sisters, he said.
Nk Mohd Ashraf Rather was 35 years in age and had joined the Army in 2004. He belonged to Village Reshigund of Kralpora in Jammu and Kashmir and is survived by his wife and a daughter, he said.
“The mortal remains of the soldiers were flown for last rites to their native places, where they would be laid to rest with full military honours. In this hour of grief, the Army stands in solidarity with the bereaved families of the martyrs and remains committed to their dignity and well being,” the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, a police spokesman in a statement here said that floral tributes paid to two brave hearts, SgCT Deepak Thusoo of Nagrota Jammu and SPO Mohammad Yousuf of Kachhama, who laid down their lives in the line of duty and achieved martyrdom in Kupwara.
“Member Parliament Fayaz Ahmad Mir led the police and security force officers in paying tributes to the martyrs. Among others who paid tributes were SSP Kupwara Shamsher Husain, DySsP and other officers,” the spokesman said.
Today morning, Inspector General of Police Shri S.P Pani led the Police and Security forces officers in a wreath-laying ceremony on the mortal remains of martyr SgCT Deepak Thusoo at District Police Lines Srinagar, the spokesman said.
IG CRPF Zulfkar Hassan, DIG CKR V.K Birdi, DIG SSB R K Bhumal, DIG CRPF, SSP Srinagar Imtiyaz Ismail, Addl SP Srinagar and other officers of Police and Security forces and Jawans were also present on the occasion and paid homage to the slain, the spokesman said.
“Deepak Thusoo is survived by aged parents, wife, minor children with a 12 years old son and about 07 years old daughter and an unmarried sister. Mohammad Yousuf is survived by aged parents, three sons and two minor daughters, the youngest being 05 years old,” the spokesman said.
Jammu and Kashmir police stand with the families of these martyrs in this crucial time and as a family, we pay our rich tributes to the slain, the spokesman added. (With Inputs from GNS)

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