Saturday, September 14, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Kargil-type situation emerging
Militants build concrete bunkers in Lolab valley
Ashwini Bhatnagar
Tribune News Service

Kupwara (North Kashmir), September 13
A Kargil-type situation is emerging in the higher reaches of Kupwara and Uri districts of the state where militants have reportedly built concrete bunkers and stocked them with heavy duty weaponry, including anti-aircraft guns. Two such guns have been recovered so far. Seven such guns are reported to be in the possession of the militants operating in this area.

Information gathered from official and unofficial sources after a visit to the densely-forested Lolab valley and the hills surrounding it has revealed that militant organisations have occupied several strategic heights on ridges in the Lolab valley. The killing of Law Minister Mushtaq Ahmed Lone a couple of days back near his native village Sogam and the firing and grenade attack launched by the militants during Lone’s funeral yesterday were carried out by militants holed in these concrete bunkers. The militants reportedly descended from these heights and after carrying out the operation returned back.

The threat perception from these concrete bunkers was said to be grave and an attempt was made to locate and destroy them. A special force of commando paratroopers was deployed sometime back but the operation did not yield the desired results. According to an official source, as per intelligence input, the concrete bunkers can be compared to the caves discovered in the Tora Bora area in Afghanistan. Security officials had recommended the use of Daisy bombs used in Afghanistan by the USA to blow up these bunkers but the proposal has not been accepted so far.

It is learnt that the Lashkar-e- Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen have set up such bunkers in this sensitive area bordering the LoC. At present around 70 militants belonging to these organisations are quartered in them and they operate in small groups of eight to 12 persons. The firing on Lone’s funeral in which rifle grenades were used yesterday was carried out by about eight persons. Earlier, last year, one of the groups had resorted to heavy firing, including the use of anti-aircraft guns, when Omar Abdullah had visited Lolab for campaigning. Mr Abdullah’s helicopter could not land because of the threat to his helicopter.

The main concentration of the militants is said to be in Rajward forest area in Handwara and Magam along the border. There are pockets in Baramulla and Bandipore too. Officials however claim that the security forces have virtually cleared the Lolab valley and adjoining areas of militants and they have been forced to seek shelter in the higher reaches of the mountains.

They also claim that an overwhelming majority of militants operating in Kashmir are now either Pakistanis or Afghanis. The natives of the valley are no longer involved in any significant number, they said and added that local support in terms of food, shelter and logistics was still there.



Envoys allowed to observe J&K elections
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 13
As part of its plans to ensure transparency in the conduct of free and fair poll in Jammu and Kashmir, the Election Commission has allowed Diplomats from 15 countries and the European Commission to observe elections beginning September 16.

Commission spokesman A.N. Jha told newspersons today that so far 28 diplomats had been issued special passes to observe the polling and counting process during the elections to be held in four phases on September 16, 24, October 1and 8.

They will have access to the polling stations and counting centres. The diplomats are from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the USA, and the UK besides the European Commission.


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