Uri: At around midnight on Friday, a group of militants had cut a hole in the 550-kilometre fence lining a section of the 740-kilometre Line of Control, and entered Kashmir. Indian soldiers, using night vision devices, noticed the movement and a gunfight began. In the firefight, five suspected militants were killed.
The Guwalata forests, where the intruders were confronted, are right next to the LoC in Uri sector of north Kashmir. It is a deep and densely forested area where combing operations are difficult to carry out.
On Sunday afternoon, however, deep inside these jungles, groups of Indian Army soldiers walked in pin-drop silence, broken only by the chirping of birds, and carried out search operations, looking for two more militants, who they believe might have separated from the original group that had infiltrated on Friday.
The forest itself offers a breathtaking sight. One end of the mountains, covered with pine trees, ends right inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, while the other end is in India, where soldiers have until now found the bodies of five militants, along with weapons, eatables, medicines and, surprisingly, nine thousand rupees of Indian currency in five hundred notes. The operation still continues.
The army claims to have thwarted an Uri-style attack (that left 19 soldiers dead last year), by killing five militants on the LoC on Friday in north Kashmir. These militants, according to the army, were wearing “unique body-fitted IEDs”, which had been earlier used by militants to carry out suicide attacks along the LoC.
“They (militants) were wearing unique body-fitted IEDs with timers — all indicating that this was a fidayeen (suicide) group trying to infiltrate into Uri, with a plan to carry out attacks on an army installations or maybe target civilians in order to vitiate the atmosphere,” Brigadier YS Ahlawat, commander of the 12 Brigade in Uri, told Firstpost on Sunday.
“Although the gunfight ended with the killing of five terrorists, the operation continues. They were trying to exploit the cover of thick jungles when they crossed over,” he added. While the five bodies, that have yet to be identified, were recovered from the site along with the ammunition, there is still a possibility that two more militants could be hiding in the jungle, which is the reason the operation continues.
Weapons, eatables, medicines and Rs 9,000 recovered from militants. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir
Ahlawat said this summer is likely to be more ‘hot’ and in just a few days, this is the second attempt made by militants to infiltrate across the LoC, but the troops on duty were prepared for any eventuality. In the past month, this is the second attempt to break through the security grid along the LoC in Uri. The first one took place on 26 May when the Indian Army said that it had killed two Pakistani Border Action Team (BAT) members, who were trying to infiltrate into the Uri sector to carry out an attack on the soldiers.
“The fresh group,” Ahlawat said, “belonged to Lashkar-e-Taiba and it was a suicide squad. There has been a surge in infiltration attempts over the past month and this is likely to continue,” he said. More than 13 militants have been killed in the past week on the Line of Control, as the number of infiltration attempts and gunfights along the de facto border have increased dramatically.
The army has accused its Pakistani counterpart of engineering the infiltration of armed militants into Kashmir, saying these groups were being provided active support, including covering fire, during their infiltration bids at the Line of Control. Uri largely remained peaceful during the 27 years of insurgency in Kashmir because of the high presence of armed forces in the town. But the borders of this small town surrounded by the Jhelum have witnessed action on the LoC all along.
In recent years, after India and Pakistan agreed to an unsigned ceasefire along the LoC in Kashmir, the border residents of this town had enjoyed a peaceful life.
However, an attack last year on the 12 Brigade in Uri by armed gunmen who had reportedly infiltrated on the same day, has vitiated the atmosphere in the town. In recent days the militants seem to have been also exploring the possibility of entering Kashmir valley through this sector. “It was not completely peaceful on the LoC, but Uri had enjoyed a peaceful atmosphere for years. But after last year’s attack, there have been restrictions imposed by the army to prevent any untoward incidents,” an army official admitted.
The escalation on the LoC has sparked fears among the residents that the bad old days might return again. “If there is a fight on the LoC, we suffer, our children suffer — which is not a happy situation for us,” Ghulam Muhammad Khatna, a resident of Sultan Daki, a village on the LoC, said.
Although the army has been able to keep a tight lid on the infiltration attempts here, one miscalculation could see another Uri-style attack in the coming days in Kashmir. “We are prepared for any eventuality. We will not allow a repeat of the Uri attack,” the army officer said.