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Friday, November 13, 1998
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Ultras plan another strike in Chamba
From Pratibha Chauhan
Tribune News Service

DHARAMSALA, Nov 12 — Jammu and Kashmir militants are planning to strike in a big way in the Tissa sector in Chamba district before the closure of the high mountain passes after snowfall.

According to highly placed sources, intelligence agencies have received reports that militants have planned another big strike in the Kalaban and Satrundi area of the Tissa sector, where they had killed 35 persons in August, this year. The intelligence agencies have already given a warning to the police and to the security forces to remain vigilant against any such militants' designs.

"The 40-km stretch between Mansa, Mahilwar Gali and Marotu, where there is hardly any population, is being targeted by the militants for another major massacre" revealed an intelligence officer.

The apprehension of a major strike in this area gains ground as the Jammu and Kashmir territory is barely 6 km away from here. Moreover, in the adjoining area of Jammu and Kashmir, the militants are well entrenched, and have the support of local population, 75 per cent of whom are Muslims. Himachal shares a vast boundary of 160 km with the militancy-infested Jammu and Kashmir in Chamba and the security forces manning the entire area is next to impossible. As there is very little population in the higher reaches of the Tissa area, and it is only the Gujjars, Gaddis and labourers working on the road construction, who frequent the area.

Militants have been using "kothas" of Gujjars as hide-outs. To prevent any nexus between Gujjars and militants, the Chamba administration, directed the Gujjars to move down to the lower areas much earlier.

However, at present some of the Gaddis from Jammu and Kashmir areas are reportedly crossing these border areas, as this has been their traditional route for going to Kangra, Indora and Gurdaspur area of Punjab. The main mountain passes between Chamba areas and the Jammu and Kashmir region are the Padri pass, Chimloi Sanghani, Dagni-Dhar, Pateran, Bharadi Gali, Mahilwar Mangli, Marotu Alwas-Narangwari, Sarsansk Sural-Padam, Munla-Tuan, Shinkil-Hanan. These mountain passes cannot be crossed once there is snowfall in the region and even the police and other security forces posted here move down to the lower areas.

According to the intelligence sources a large number of youth have recently joined militant outfits like the Hizbul Mujahideen, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e-Toiba. As per information of the Himachal police, militants who struck in Kalaban and Satrundi belonged to the Lashkar-e-Toiba outfit. Seven militants from this group, led by a top militant Karim, alias Kari, were responsible for the carnage at Kalaban. The Himachal police has been able to obtain the photographs of these militants, but their names are still not known. All these militants are foreign mercenaries, most likely Afghani.

Three militants, who had shot down four Gaddis in the Sappa Cholu area in Kehar belonged to the Hizbul Mujahideen outfit.

The DIG, Mr I D Bhandari, when contacted, said the police was fully geared up to face the threat from militants, and a constant vigil was being maintained on the border areas.back

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