SRINAGAR: In a major attack, a heavily armed group of Hizbul Mujahideen militants ambushed a patrol party of army in a village in South Kashmir’s Shopian district in early hours Thursday, killing three soldiers and injuring five others including a Lt Colonel and Major. A woman was also killed after being hit by stray bullet inside her house during the gunfight.
Defence spokesman in Srinagar Colonel Rajesh Kalia told Express that militants fired indiscriminately on the army men at Mulu Chitragam village in South Kashmir’s Shopian district early this morning while they were returning after conducting a combing and operation in a nearby village.
The militants, according to sources, fired from automatic weapons and lobbed grenades towards the army’s 44 Rashtria Rifles personnel, who were travelling in army vehicles, at around 2 am.
They said the militants rained bullets on the army vehicles.
“The army men returned the fire and in the exchange of fire, eight soldiers including a Lt Colonel and a Major were injured,” sources said.
The injured were evacuated to military hospital in Srinagar, where three of the critically injured soldiers succumbed.
The slain soldiers were identified as Lance Naik Gh Mohi-ud-Din Rather of Bijbehara, Anantnag in J&K; Sapper Sreejith MJ of Paruthipully, Palakkad in Kerala and Sepoy Vikas Singh Gurjar of Karouli, Rajasthan.
The five injured soldiers including Lt Colonel Mukesh Jha and Major Amardeep Singh are undergoing treatment at the hospital.
A woman identified as Taja Begum was hit by a stray bullet inside her house during the cross fire, a police official said.
He said she succumbed to injuries while being shifted to the hospital.
Sources said militants managed to escape from the area after ambushing the army patrol party.
After the attack, army, police and paramilitary personnel launched a joint search operation in the village to track the attackers. However, no arrests were reported during the hour long operation.
The villagers, however, alleged that the troops damaged parked cars and window panes of some residential houses during the operation.
Pro-Pakistan militant group Hizbul Mujahideen owned responsibility of the ambush.
Hizbul operation spokesperson, Burhan-ud-Din, told local news gathering agencies in Srinagar that militants of the outfit carried out the attack.
He claimed that five army men were killed and seven injured in the ambush.
It was the first major attack of militants on the security forces this year. Earlier, they (militants) were engaging security personnel during the search and combing operation after being trapped.
“The militants had planned the attack well. They let some vehicles pass and attacked the last few vehicles,” a police official said.
He said probe has been launched to identity the militants involved in the attack.
The security agencies, he said, apprehend that the attack may have been carried out jointly by Hizbul and Lashkar militants.
“The militants of two outfits of late are coordinating activities and may be they had jointly carried out the attack. Both militants groups have suffered heavy casualties and may now be coordinating activities,” he said.
The militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen are active in southern Kashmir, which was epicenter of last year’s unrest in the Valley. The unrest was triggered by killing of 21-year-old Hizb commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces in South Kashmir’s Kokernag area on July 8.
CM condemns attack
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti has condemned the killing of three Army personnel in the militant attack.
She said violence has never been and could never be a means to address issues. “The unending cycle of violence in the State has brought untold miseries to the people and collective efforts are needed to get the State out of the morass of death and destruction.”
Mehbooba also expressed deep grief and anguish over the death of a civilian in the incident.
She conveyed her sympathies with the bereaved families of the soldiers and the civilian.