The encounter with terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag has stretched to the fifth day, with thousands of troops including para commandos locked in an endless gunfight deep inside the dense forests of Gadol. Trained in jungle warfare, the terrorists are making use of the treacherous terrain and forest cover to keep the forces at bay and prolong the encounter.
The faceoff that continues for over 100 hours now began Wednesday and three officers, including two from the Army and a policeman, were killed in action in an attempt to neutralise the terrorists.
The heavily armed terrorists, believed to be two-three in number, are hiding in a tactically favourable location in the dense and steep forest. This indicates a new pattern being used by the terrorists to take on the security structure in Kashmir.
These 100 hours, the troops fired hundreds of motor shells and rockets, and targeted suspected terrorist hideouts with hi-tech equipment and dropped explosives using advanced drones.
Loud explosions and heavy gunfire echo in the serene alpine forests time to time.
Army’s Northern Command chief Lt General Upendra Dwivedi visited the encounter site on Saturday where he was briefed about how troops are using the advanced equipment including drones and firepower against the terrorists.
OP GAROL#LtGenUpendraDwivedi#ArmyCdr, Northern Command reviewed the operational situation on the ongoing operations at #Kokernag forest area in #Anantnag. He was briefed by the ground commanders on the High Intensity Operations in which Hi-tech Equipment is being used for… pic.twitter.com/MggzlYb2Lh
— NORTHERN COMMAND – INDIAN ARMY (@NorthernComd_IA) September 16, 2023
The Army has even released a picture of the drone being used in the operation.
The joint operation by Army and police began Tuesday night based on intelligence input, followed by an attempt to approach the terrorist hideout next day. The terrorists who appear to have anticipated the action opened fire on the forces, caught between the dense forests and hill on one side and a deep ditch on the other.
Leading from the front, two Army officers – Colonel Manpreet Singh and Major Ashish Dhonchak, and Deputy Superintendent of Police Himayun Bhat – were killed in action. Two more soldiers were injured while another is believed to be missing.
What followed was more challenging – heavy firing from the terrorist side made it an uphill task to evacuate the injured and those killed in action.
The assault and climbing team of the army has taken position in the towering and dense forest, and there is a relentless offensive on target hideouts. But there is no clarity if any of the terrorists was hunted down.
Amid heavy shelling, a portion of the forest also caught fire last afternoon, but was quickly put off by unexpected showers.
The new security challenge
The terrorists appear to be trained in jungle and high-altitude warfare, and prepared for a long haul. It may have taken a long time to set up the logistics in such a treacherous terrain, say sources, adding that dealing with this type of terrorism is extremely difficult.
While security forces deployed in towns and villages across the region have been able to dismantle terrorist support structures to a great extent, terrorism in the alpine forests could undo the gains made in recent years, they say. A similar pattern is being seen in the terror activities in Poonch and Rajouri districts of Jammu province.
In May, 10 soldiers including five paratroopers were killed in twin attacks by terrorists. None of the attackers could be tracked down in the dense forest of Pirpanjal despite a massive counterterrorist operation.
In October 2021, the army was engaged in one of longest anti-terror operations in Poonch-Rajouri forests after nine army soldiers were killed in twin attacks.