Srinagar, September 13
The Commanding Officer and a Major of 19 Rashtriya Rifles and a J&K Police officer were killed during a fierce and ongoing gunfight in south Kashmir, officials said on Wednesday.
News agency PTI, quoting officials, said a jawan also died and the whereabouts of another soldier were not immediately known and it was feared he might have been seriously wounded.
The gunfight erupted during the intervening night of Tuesday and Wednesday after a joint team of the police and Army launched a counter-insurgency operation at Gadool village of the Kokernag area in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.
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The operation was set in motion based on specific intelligence pinpointing the presence of terrorists, said a spokesperson of the Chinar Corps based in Srinagar. As the security forces entered Gadool, they came under intense fire from the concealed positions of militants, strategically hiding in the dense foliage of the forest, officials told The Tribune.
In the initial exchange of fire, Commanding Officer Col Manpreet Singh (41) was killed on the spot while Major Ashish Dhonchak (34) and Deputy Superintendent of Police Himayun Muzamil Bhat received multiple bullet injuries, said police officers.
Both Major Dhonchak and DSP Bhat, son of retired DIG of J&K Police GH Bhat, later succumbed to their injuries. Security forces flew in choppers to evacuate the bodies of the officers.
Col Manpreet Singh belonged to Mullanpur in Mohali district of Punjab while the DSP Bhat was a resident of Srinagar. The Kokernag attack is seen as a major escalation by militants in Kashmir. Over the last few years, militants have changed their tactics, shifting base to the Poonch-Rajouri axis in Jammu province, and carrying out ambushes.
“It looks like the militants have infiltrated into the forest area extending from Poonch, Rajouri to south Kashmir,” said an officer. In May 2020, Col Ashutosh Sharma was among the five security men killed in Handwara. He was the second Commanding Officer of 21 Rashtriya Rifles who lost his life combating terrorism.
Officials said three terrorists were believed to be hiding in the dense forest. A banned terror outfit under the LeT has claimed responsibility for the attack, according to PTI.
One soldier missing
- The whereabouts of another soldier weren’t immediately known; feared seriously wounded
- The gunfight erupted during a counter-insurgency operation at Gadool village in Anantnag
- Col Manpreet Singh killed on spot; Major Dhonchak, DSP Himayun succumbed to bullet injuries
COs killed in encounters
- May 2020 Col Ashutosh Sharma among five security personnel killed in Handwara gunfight
- Nov 2015 Col Santosh Mahadik of 41 RR killed in Kupwara encounter
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