Thursday, February 17, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Six Pak troops killed in Poonch
4 Indian soldiers die in clash
From Our Correspondent

JAMMU, Feb 16 — Six Pakistani and four Indian soldiers were killed in an encounter in Poonch district late last night.

Defence sources said a patrol party of the Army was moving close to the Line of Control in Dehari village in the Mandhar subsector of Poonch district when Pakistani soldiers fired on them. Three Indian soldiers were killed on the spot and one was reported missing. But Pakistan has said that missing soldier’s body was across the border. Pakistan will handover the dead body tomorrow at Chakla post in the Pallanwalla sector at 1 p.m.

Brigadier Randhir Singh, Brigadier General Staff of 16 Corps, said at least five to six Pakistani soldiers were killed when the Indian border patrol returned the fire.

The clash took place at 9.45 p.m., the spokesman said, adding the two sides exchanged fire till the wee hours of today.

The Indians were patrolling the areas to check Pakistani infiltration.

This is the second major clash in three weeks. Earlier, on January 21, 18 Pakistani soldiers were killed by the Army when they tried to attack an Indian post in the Pallanwala area of the Chamb sector in Jammu region.

Meanwhile, an AP report from Islamabad quoted state-run television as claiming that Indian troops had crossed the LoC in the Kotli sector, about 60 km from the Pakistan occupied Kashmir capital of Muzzaffrabad.

The television claimed that the Pakistani forces had repulsed the attack. It said after the clash a body of an Indian soldier had been recovered.

SRINAGAR: Two BSF personnel and a policeman were killed in a militant attack, while a powerful blast ripped apart a mosque shortly before afternoon prayers here today, an official spokesman said.

The gunning down of three security personnel by pistol-borne militants and the panic-reaction by the police and the paramilitary forces disrupted normal activities in the Lal Chowk area and its adjoining areas, he said.

The trouble erupted when a policeman Mushtaq Ahmad, attached with Maisuma police station, was shot dead by unidentified militants at Madina Chowk near Gawkadal, he said.

Five minutes later, militants struck busy business centre of Badshah Chowk in the Lal Chowk area and killed the two BSF personnel, identified as constable Lakshmi Narayan and constable Ramanan of 39th battalion, from point-blank range while they were coming out of a shop in the area.

The shooting caused panic in the area when the police and the paramilitary forces fired in the air for about half an hour in retaliation to the militant strike. However, there was no report of any casualty.

The police and BSF personnel allegedly set ablaze three Maruti cars, two three-wheelers and at least three shops in the Gawkadal area, besides smashing windscreens of about a dozen vehicles which were abandoned by their occupants to escape the fury of the police and paramilitary forces, official sources said.

A PTI reporter who visited the site of the incidents saw smoke smouldering from the burnt down vehicles, a couple of three-wheelers, and a few shops.

No militant outfit has claimed the responsibility of the incidents.

As many as 10 youths had been taken in custody for questioning, the sources said.

Earlier in the day, a mysterious blast damaged a mosque, shortly before afternoon prayers at Shaheed Gunj in the city.

Although no one was injured in the blast, which took place one hour before ‘zuhar’ prayers (second prayer of the day), its impact was so powerful that it damaged the second floor of the mosque where a “madrasa’’ (religious school) was housed.

It was not immediately known how the explosion was caused. The mosque mostly remains locked and opens only at the time of prayers, the sources said.


Red-tapism harming Army: Malik

Somewhere in the Western Sector, Feb 16 (PTI, UNI) — Army chief Gen V P Malik has made a veiled attack on bureaucratic red-tapism, saying “procedural delays” rather than fund constraints were coming in the way of building the country’s military preparedness.

“More than fund constraints, it is our procedures and procedural delay which are harming military interest,” he said.

He cautioned: “One has to remember that time factor is an important facet in equipping your forces”, specially during the time when the country was faced with an extraordinary security situation.

Gen Malik was talking to newsmen here late last night as the country’s frontline main battle tanks rumbled in the Thar desert just 100 km away from the international border with Pakistan as the weeklong combined Army and Air Force exercise, Vijay Chakra, completed its halfway stage.

Though very near the border with Pakistan, Gen Malik, accompanied by his Air Force counterpart Air Chief Marshal A Y Tipnis, said the exercise had “no message” for Pakistan, asserting that the war game comprising the strike corps with its armoured, artillery, mechanised and air component was “to test the country’s military preparedness”.

Gen Malik revealed that there was a “floating movement” of Pakistani troops across the Line of Control (LoC).

He, however, discounted any fears, saying there was nothing to worry and India was taking adequate precautions. He did not mention the exact location where there was troop movement and the precautions the Indian Government was taking.

The objective of Exercise Vijay Chakra, the first after the Kargil war and the military take-over in Pakistan, was to train and test the staff and combat elements of the Western Air Command (WAC) on joint operations with the Army, improve and evolve techniques to enhance efficiency of the armed personnel and test and validate concepts and planning.

The Army chief said such exercises were part of a continuous process in which a lot of dynamics were involved.

He said the reduction of training of Army officers by six months was necessary since there was shortage of officers in handling counter-insurgency operations and Kargil-like situations. Such a reduction would not have any adverse impact on the Indian Army, he assured.

Gen Malik said the Army was laying emphasis on computer literacy and information technology at all levels in the armed forces. The Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad, was coordinating with the National Institute of Information Technology and “the future soldier of the Indian Army would be using laptops.” it would also be introduced in the training programme at NDA.

About the K Subramanayam Committee report on Kargil the Army Chief said it (the report) would be tabled in the next session of Parliament beginning on February 23. When asked whether it should be made public, he said he did not have any objection to some parts of the report which were in national interest being made public. He declined comment on the court of inquiry report, saying it was all classified.

As part of the exercise, in the dead of night, about 20 “pathfinders” were airdropped. This was followed by air dropping of a BMP fitted with anti-tank weapons by IL-76 aircraft. Two jeeps fitted with anti-tank weapons were air-dropped which was followed by that of 120 troops.

The wargames which began on February two and are expected to continue till February 17, are being conducted in the Thar desert. Diplomats from 22 countries including the USA, the UK and China have witnessed the exercise.

About 20,000 troops including officers and jawans besides about 2000 air force personnel including 200 officers are participating in the exercise. Nearly 40 fighters, 16 helicopters and ten transport aircraft are participating in the exercise.

The latest communication equipment and battlefield computers are being tested during the exercises. The IAF used MIG 29, MIG 23, IL-76 and An-32 during the exercises last night.

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