SRINAGAR: The ongoing bloodbath in Kashmir took the lives of an Army Major, a sepoy and two militants of the Hizbul Mujahideen on Thursday in two separate overnight encounters in volatile south Kashmir.
The slain soldiers were ambushed while their platoon was carrying out a cordon-and-search operation in Zainapora village in Shopian district at about 2 am Thursday. While the Army said two soldiers were killed and one injured, Hizbul Mujahideen, which claimed responsibility for the attack, said five soldiers were killed.
The Army named the two men killed as Major Kamlesh Pandey and sepoy Tanjin Chhutin. Another sepoy Kirpal Singh was injured.
Maj Pandey hailed from the Haldwani area of Uttarakhand while sepoy Tenzin was from Lahul Spiti in Himachal Pradesh.
An Army official said the three injured men were evacuated to the Army's 92 Base Hospital for treatment but Maj. Pandey and sepoy Chhultim succumbed.
“As our men were moving towards the village to lay siege, the search party was ambushed by militants firing AK-47 rifles. Militants rained bullets on the search party from vintage points. Our soldiers returned fire but they were taken by surprise,” the officer said.
Sources said the Army unit was joined by police and CRPF reinforcements and the search operation continued but the militants managed to escape. The operation was called off in the morning.
Claiming responsibility for the attack, a Hizb spokesperson Burhanuddin told local news agencies in Srinagar that the five soldiers were killed and many others were injured. “Such attacks will continue across the Valley,” he said.
In the other engagement overnight, two militants of Hizbul Mujahideen were killed in a gunfight with security forces at Gopalpora village in Kulgam district. A police spokesman said police, army and CRPF men laid siege to Gopalpora village Wednesday evening to flush out militants hiding there.
“During the search operation, militants fired on the search party. The fire was returned by the troops and in the brief encounter, two Hizb militants were killed,” he said.
The slain militants were identified as Aaqib Ahmad Itoo and Suhail Ahmad Rather, both locals. An INSAS rifle, one AK rifle and two magazines were recovered from the encounter site,” the police spokesman said.
He said Aaqib Ahmad Itoo was involved in an attack on a Jammu & Kashmir Bank cash van at Pombai in Kulgam in May in which five policemen and two bank guards were killed.
Hundreds of people attended the funeral prayers of the slain militants in their native places amidst chanting of pro-Pakistan, pro-freedom and anti-India slogans.
Militants appeared in the funeral procession of Suhail Ahmad Rather at Tantraypora village offered a gun salute to their fallen associate.