M A I N   N E W S

15-day Keran operation ends, Army Chief blames Pakistan
Tribune News Service & Agencies

New Delhi/Srinagar, October 8
The Army on Tuesday called off the 15-day Keran operation in the frontier district of Kupwara and declared the sector cleared of infiltrators, even as Army Chief General Bikram Singh said it was impossible to infiltrate across the Line of Control (LoC) without the Pakistani Army's knowledge.

“I am very clear, having known the deployment along the Line of Control. No activities by the terrorists can take place without the support of the Pakistani Army,” Gen Bikram Singh said on the sidelines of the annual Air Force Day parade in New Delhi.

The Chief said the Army has much evidence (against the Pakistani Army), including a letter found on a terrorist, information and intercepts. "The covering fire that is given to them to infiltrate comes from their posts," he said.

He said the terrorists were not occupying any higher ground but sitting in a ‘nullah’ (rivulet) near the LoC. "This is not an intrusion... it is a desperate bid for infiltration. These terrorists were in a nullah (drain). What advantage would they get by sitting in a nullah?" he said.

In Srinagar, Northern Command chief Lt General Sanjiv Chachra said the search operation in the Keran sector had been called off and it had been cleared of infiltrators.

Describing it as a desperate multi-point infiltration attempt in the sector, he said, “We knew about it (large-scale infiltration). We knew they were coming from multiple points. Eight infiltrates have been killed and over 80 major weapons have been recovered from them, including 23 AK-47s, two pistols and 17 UBGLs.”

However, he was not specific about the fate of 30 to 40 holed up militants in the Shalabhato area, 130 km from Srinagar.

The Army had launched a massive counter-infiltration operation in Shalabhato on September 24 when a large number of militants tried to sneak into the Valley from multiple points along the LoC.

Chachra said some of the infiltrators might have gone back earlier. “Some of them were used (killed) in subsequent operations. The area has been cleaned up,” he said.

Though the Army Commander insisted the area has been cleaned up, he left room for further operations in the area, saying they would be launched on the basis of specific intelligence and surveillance.

“I have redeployed the counter-insurgency grid in such a manner that I can do further operations on surveillance and intelligence,” Chachra said. He repeatedly denied reports of infiltrators having occupied any Army observation post or village in the area of operation.

Eight infiltrators have been killed in three different operations around Shalabhato since September 23. A militant was killed on September 23 in Machil sector, a day before the massive search operation was launched at Shalabhato Keran.

On October 4, three militants were killed in Gujjardur area and in the second attempt by militants to infiltrate in the area of Fateh Gali on October 5, four militants were killed.

The Northern Commander, who was accompanied by Lt Gen Gurmit Singh, GOC-in-C of Srinagar-based 15 Corps, echoed the Army Chief’s views on the Pakistani Army being in the know of infiltration attempts.

“We are eyeball to eyeball on the Line of Control, with the Pakistan Army. How can such a large group infiltrate without the complicity of the Pakistani Army?” he said. Last contact with the militants in the Shalabhato area was made four to five days ago, he said.

The abrupt closure of one of the biggest counter-infiltration operations in recent years, however, left two questions unanswered: Why did the Army take 15 days to clean up the Shalabhato area?

The Army had till yesterday claimed that an effective cordon was in place and that it had complete control and domination in the area. If the cordon was effective, how and when did the terrorists escape? 

8 militants dead, weapons seized

* Sept 24: Army launches massive counter-infiltration operation in Shalabhato after a large number of militants try to sneak into the Valley from multiple points along the LoC

* Sept 23-Oct 5: Eight infiltrates killed in three encounters; over 80 major weapons recovered, including 23 AK-47s, two pistols and 17 UBGLs

* Army denies reports of infiltrators occupying any Army observation post or village in the area of operation

General Bikram Singh, Army ChiefAlong the LoC, there is no way terrorists can operate in that area without the knowledge of the Pakistani Army... The covering fire comes from their (Pak) posts.

— General Bikram Singh, Army Chief


 Lt General Sanjiv Chachra, Northern Command Chief I have redeployed the counter-insurgency grid for better surveillance and intelligence.

— Lt General Sanjiv Chachra, Northern Command Chief 





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