Locals helping militants: Army

As the combing operation in frontier Kupwara district entered 16th day today, the Army’s top-most officer in Kashmir said the militants hiding in a thick forest area were getting supplies from locals.

They (militants) are getting some sustenance from villagers nearby,” said Lt Gen Satish Dua, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps, on the sidelines of a seminar here.“That is how we get information and it is the reason why we establish a contact with them every three or four days.”A massive combing operation has been going on for the past 16 days at Manigam Haihama, Kupwara, 120 km from here.

Security forces have been combing the area to flush out heavily armed Lashkar-e-Toiba militants believed to be hiding in the area.A Commanding Officer of the Army’s elite unit, Colonel Santosh Mahadik, was killed and six security men, including a Lt Colonel, injured.

A militant was killed in the gunfight.The GOC said two factors were responsible for the operation taking so long. “One is the operation is undergoing in a tough terrain and thick forest and the second is that we do not want any collateral damage,” Lt General Dua said.The Corps Commander said the forest had been cordoned off and villagers were not being allowed to enter the area, where the combing was being done.

He said he may not be in a position to tell how many more days the operation would continue in the area.“They have come in and we have prevented them from crossing reception area,” he said, adding that unmanned aerial vehicles were being used for surveillance.

On the attack on Tangdhar Army base, the 15 Corps GOC said the documents recovered from the slain militants had made it clear that the camp was the target. He said it was not a new phenomenon where militants had attacked an Army base close to the Line of Control.“A few months ago, there was a similar attack in Tangdhar. Last year, there was an attack on an Army camp in Mohura, Uri,” he said. “They try to get close to Army post or camp because they are unable to infiltrate well-coordinated counter-infiltration grid. That is why they want to target camps on the LoC.”“The Jaise-e-Mohammad has owned up the attack. The intelligence agencies are working on other aspects,” he said.

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