3 terrorists gunned down in encounter in Kashmir; Army major, 4 personnel killed

3 terrorists gunned down in encounter in Kashmir; Army major, 4 personnel killed

Srinagar-Wreath Laying ceremony

Srinagar, Feb 18 (PTI) Three JeM terrorists, including two top commanders believed to be behind the Pulwama terror attack, were killed in a fierce 16-hour encounter, in which an Army major and four security forces personnel lost their lives in south Kashmir on Monday. A civilian died in the crossfire during the gun battle in the Pinglan area of Pulwama district, 12 km from the spot of the February 14 attack on CRPF personnel which claimed the lives of 40 jawans, officials said. Deputy Inspector General of Police (South Kashmir) Amit Kumar, a Brigadier, a Lt. Colonel, a Major and four other ranks of the Army unit which carried out the operation suffered injuries, they said. Two of the slain terrorists were identified as Kamran and Abdul Rasheed alias Ghazi, the so-called divisional commanders of Jaish-e-Mohammed for Pulwama, Tral and Awantipora areas of South Kashmir. The third one was Hilal, a resident of Pinglena in Pulwama, they said. The Jammu and Kashmir Police had been on the lookout for Ghazi and Kamran after a suicide bomber belonging to the terror group drove his explosives-laden vehicle and detonated himself near a bus carrying CRPF jawans in Lethpora in Pulwama last week. The Jaish claimed responsibility for the February 14 terror attack that targeted a convoy of 78 vehicles on its way from Jammu to Srinagar. About 2,500 CRPF personnel were on their way to the valley, many returning to work after leave. A police spokesman said that all the three terrorists were wanted by the law enforcement agencies for their involvement in a series of terror crimes, including attacks on security establishments, and civilian atrocities. Kamran had taken over as the operational commander of JeM after Mufti Waqas, who was killed in an encounter in February last year, the spokesman said. "His role in the recent terror attack on CRPF at Lethpora is being probed as well," the spokesman said. The soldiers killed in action were identified as Major V S Dhondial, Havaldar Sheo Ram and Sepoys Hari Singh and Ajay Kumar. Head constable Abdul Rashid Kalas of Jammu and Kashmir was also killed. Senior police officer Kumar received a gunshot wound in the abdomen and the brigade commander suffered injury in the leg. All the injured are stable, the officials said. Giving details, the officials said that an input was received from the police about presence of the Jaish terrorists in the area. Immediately, a cordon-and-search operation was initiated and a house-to-house search was being conducted in the area. As the process was going on, terrorists fired at the army party that resulted in the death of the major and other personnel in the early hours of Monday. There after, forces concentrated on the house from where the firing was coming and killed two of them -- Kamran and Hilal. As the mopping up exercise was continuing, the third militant started firing, resulting in injuries to other personnel, they said. Ghazi continued to move from house to house and carried out surprise attacks that resulted in injuries to the DIG and the Brigade Commander as well as another Major. The Army paid tributes to the fallen soldiers at a solemn ceremony at Badami Bagh Cantonment, headquarters of the 15 Corps here. Corps Commander Lt Gen K J S Dhillon led other ranks in paying homage to the four soldiers including Major Dhondial, who laid down their lives in the operation, a defence spokesperson said. Representatives from other security agencies also joined in paying their last respects to the soldiers. An army spokesperson said the 33-year-old Major had joined Army in 2011 and belonged to village Dangwal in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. He is survived by wife. Havaldar Ram (36) had joined Army in 2000 and hailed from Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan. He is survived by wife and a son. Sepoy Singh (26) belonged to Rewari in Haryana. He joined the Army in 2011 and is survived by his wife and son. Sepoy Kumar hailed from village Bastikri in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. The 27-year-old had joined the Army in 2012 and is survived by his wife and a son. Their mortal remains were flown to their native places for the last rites. In this hour of grief, the Army stands in solidarity with the bereaved families of the slain personnel and remains committed to their dignity and wellbeing, the spokesperson said.

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