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Thursday, June 3, 1999
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Napalm attack on infiltrators
From Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, June 2 — Going into the eighth day of air strikes, the Indian Air Force (IAF) today took to intensive measures, pounding the last few positions of the infiltrators with extremely deadly napalm bombs in the Dras and Batalik sub sectors of Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir, even as the Indian troops evicted the intruders from some more heights pushing them further back to the LoC in the process.

According to reports here the IAF for the first time today launched napalm bomb attacks on the infiltrators positions, specially in Dras and Batalik sectors where they were strongly entrenched.

On the other hand, the Indian troops also made steady progress in the region and were on their way to surrounding them on the heights itself. The Indian infantrymen were pushing their way through the nullahs and ravines around the hill-tops to get around the infiltrators with the basic aim of cutting of their sustenance routes and eliminating them.

Sources here said that the task although extremely difficult, with the infiltrators having the advantage due to the positions they were occupying on the hill tops, the Indian troops were making slow but deliberate movement forward to dislodge them from the heights. According to reports, the infiltrators, who had made their way till about 7 km into our territory had now been pushed back to almost 3 km of the LoC.

While the IAF pounding was shaking up the infiltrators in their positions itself, the infantrymen, with their virtual stone-to-stone movement up, were in the process of dislodging the Pakistani intruders from the last of their positions. The Army was concentrating only on eliminating the intruders and not attempting to capture them.

The casualties among the infiltrators had now risen to well over 500, but the officials here were still to receive the exact figure from the region. As of now the infiltrators were still holed on at least five more heights in Batalik and Dras sectors and it could still be some days before they were finally pushed back across the LoC, sources said.

Reports said that the Indian troops were making slow and deliberate movement as not only were the infiltrators enjoying height advantage, but since the large number of soldiers had been deployed in the region from outside, they were taking time to get acclimatised. Pushing the men straight at 15,000 to 17,000 ft heights would prove fatal for them.

The IAF was still using the MiG-21s, MiG-23s, MiG-27s for the air strikes, the Mirage-2000 for the EW and ECCMs and the MiG-29s for 24-hour combat air patrol.

According to reports, the troops were facing maximum resistance from some pockets in the Batalik sector. This as not only was Batalik close to the LoC, but the infiltrators were strongly entrenched in their shelters there. Being close to the LoC, the infiltrators were also receiving reinforcements from across the border in these positions, making it possible for them to keep up the resistance.

The Pakistani army had also engaged special groups to retrieve the bodies of Pakistani army regulars. Apparently Pakistan did not want to leave behind any evidence of the involvement of its troops in this intrusion.

Sources here said that the orders for these groups was very clear to just to retrieve the bodies of the Pakistani troops and not to bother about the mercenaries, who according to reports, had been highly indoctrinated. However, the intruders had been instructed by their masters from across the border that nothing which points to the involvement of the Pakistani army in the intrusion be left on the Indian territory.

The incessant day and night shelling by the artillery was taking a psychological toll on the armed intruders and their morale was very low, Brig Mohan Bhandari, Deputy Director General of Military Operations, said at a briefing.

The Army denied a report from Islamabad that three school children died in shelling by the Indian Army today in a village in Nakial sector of Pakistan occupied Kashmir, across the line of control (LoC).

"We are attacking only well identified military targets and not civilian areas," Brig Bhandari said, yesterday, Pakistan had claimed that 10 children had been killed in a village in Neelam valley due to Indian shelling, which too was vehemently denied by the Army.

Brig Bhandari said the routes through which the infiltrators were still getting supplies had been identified. "We hope to cut off these sustenance routes very soon".

The Army said appropriate force levels had been deployed in Kargil sector to facilitate speedy execution of operations — rugged terrain configuration and inhospitable weather conditions nothwithstanding.

The Indian casualties remain, as of yesterday, at 46 dead, 174 wounded and 12 missing since the conflict began on May 8.

The developments on the international border and the LoC were being closely monitored and necessary precautionary measures were being instituted.

Group Captain K Rajaram, Joint Director (operations), said the IAF despite the cloudy weather, which worsened during the day, continued with the air strikes.

Today's attacks were at two important hill features in the Dras sector and which proved effective. All the strikes were carried out, scrupulously avoiding the other side of the LoC, he said.

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