New Delhi: On September 28, the Northern Army Command put out a tweet slightly after noon that read, “#OpTrunkhal(Ganderbal). One terrorist killed. Weapon & warlike stores recovered. Joint operation in progress.”
According to sources, soldiers of the Indian Army had spotted some armed militants in Ganderbal's Trumkhal forests a day earlier. After being challenged, the sources say the militants returned fire at the soldiers and one militant was killed on the spot.
On September 29, a team of doctors from the Sub-District Trauma Hospital, Kangan, were called by the authorities to carry out a post-mortem of the slain militant. The teams had to trek several hours to conduct the autopsy.
Three days later, the Army established contact with militants for the second time. The Northern Army command issued another tweet on October 1 that read, “#OpTrunkhal(Ganderbal). Second terrorist killed; Weapon and warlike stores recovered. Total Two terrorists…”
Sources told News18 three automatic rifles were recovered from the two slain militants. Army claims both the slain militants to be Pakistanis. More than two weeks have passed since — 18 days to be exact. The Army's operation in Ganderbal's forests in north Kashmir have only intensified over time.
This makes the ongoing operation in Kashmir one of the most longest and most exhaustive in the last one year.
In fact, since September 27, the Army has not only increased its own footfall in the forests, it has also air dropped several units of its elite para commandos in the forests. This is because, as sources have told News18, security agencies suspect the presence of at least two dozen highly trained and heavily armed militants in the area.
"As per the information available to us, about 12 (FTs) foreign terrorists have crossed over to Kashmir through the Gurez area. From Gurez, they reached Bandipora and now they were probably making their way down south Kashmir," a source in Ministry of Home Affairs told News18.
The source added this operation — to flush out the remaining militants through an extensive combing operation — was being led entirely by the Army.
"It is a very tough terrain in which the operation is going on. It is situated at an altitude of 4000m. There is one lake — the Gangabal lake — around which are located high peaks and deep nallahs. Our focus area is spread across 25sqkm. Bad weather is also hampering surveillance through helicopters. So it is challenging to entirely scan through," another source privy to the information said.
Under such circumstances, the source added, the Army is working on a two-pronged strategy. Monitoring all the possible exit/entry points out of the Gangabal valley and waiting till the supplies of the militants run out, while simultaneously raiding all the possible locations where militants could possibly be hiding.
"Since the second terrorist was killed in a hut, such as is used by Bakkarwals, we are looking for and raiding all the huts in the area to see whether the remaining militants have tried to find refuge in them. At the same time, we are monitoring all the exit and entry points in the valley," the source added.
If the terrorists have managed to slip past the security cordon, they might pose a severe threat to peace in the Valley that is crawling back to normalcy 70 days after it was stripped off its special status.