Army still battles guerrillas near Kashmir border

Last Updated: Fri, Oct 04, 2013 13:22 hrs

Srinagar: The Indian Army is still trying to hunt down 35-40 heavily armed guerrillas in a remote part of Jammu and Kashmir's border with Pakistan, military officials said Friday.

The army operation in Keran sector in the northern district of Kupwara along the Line of Control (LoC), which divides Kashmir between Pakistan and India, continued for the 11th day.

The army has cordoned off the mountainous, thickly forested area in a bid to prevent the militants, who are said to have sneaked in from Pakistan, from escaping.

Defence ministry sources told IANS that two brigades of the army have been tasked to tackle the group.

"We are moving into the area with caution because the militants could have planted booby traps in the area," a military source said.

The army says 15 guerrillas have been killed since being detected 11 days ago but their bodies have not been recovered.

"Our priority is to ensure that the those militants still inside the area are not allowed to escape," the source said.

Another official said firing by soldiers had not been responded to by the militants for many hours.

Lt.Gen. Gurmit Singh, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Srinagar- based 15th Corps, has denied speculation that the militants had taken over an army post.

The corps commander said it was too early to suggest that the Pakistan Army was directly involved in Keran infiltration bid.

The operation was raised in the state assembly by Harsh Dev Singh of the Panthers Party, who demanded a statement from the government.

He said since the Keran build-up involved Jammu and Kashmir territory, the state government must make a statement.

Later, members of the Panthers Party walked out, raising slogans against Pakistan.

In New Delhi, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne said the operation in Keran sector was localised and the army was capable of dealing with the situation.

He added that efforts were on in Pakistan to push militants into Jammu and Kashmir before the onset of winter when the mountain passes get closed.

He denied that the situation in Keran was comparable to Kargil, where Pakistani troops and militants seized key heights in 1999 triggering heavy fighting between Indian and Pakistan troops.

"The passes will close down shortly. Frenetic attempts are being made to push in as many infiltrators (as possible)," the air force chief said.

The air force would provide any assistance sought by the army, he added.

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