Three Officers Killed in South Kashmir Militant Attack, Security Brass Reach Amidst Search Ops

An Army spokesperson said the killings took place during a joint anti-insurgency operation involving J&K Police and the Army in the intervening night of September 12 and 13.

Srinagar: A colonel is among three officers of the Indian Army and J&K Police who were killed in a militant attack in south Kashmir on Wednesday, September 13, prompting the top security brass to rush to the area where a major search operation is underway.

The commanding officer of the Army’s 19 Rashtriya Rifles based in south Kashmir’s Kokernag was killed along with a young major-ranked officer and a deputy superintendent of J&K Police during the attack on Wednesday morning.

“The terrorists had taken a strategically-advantageous position and opened fire relentlessly on a joint team of J&K Police and the Army near Ahlan Gadol water stream, giving the team little time to react,” sources said.

Gunfire during anti-insurgency operation

An Army spokesperson said that an anti-insurgency operation was launched jointly by J&K Police and the Army in the intervening night of September 12 and 13 following “specific intelligence on the presence of terrorists” in Gadol area of Kokernag, some 90 km from the capital Srinagar.

Reports said that the operation, which was put on hold during the night, resumed on Wednesday morning after security forces reportedly got a tip that the attackers were taking shelter in a hideout in a hilly area of Gadol village, which is situated amidst dense forests and thick vegetation.

When the security forces moved towards the hideout, they came under heavy gunfire. Reports said that an Army colonel took the first shots followed by his deputy, a major-ranked officer, and a deputy superintendent of J&K Police.

“All the three were critically injured in the initial firing and terrorists continued to fire in order to prevent the evacuation of the victims from the spot. However, an Army chopper was pressed into service and one of the victims was evacuated to a military hospital in Srinagar where he succumbed to injuries,” sources said.

The deceased have been identified as Colonel Manpreet Singh, a recipient of Sena Medal in 2021, Deputy Superintendent of Jammu and Kashmir Police (DSP), Humayun Muzamil Bhat and Major Aashish Dhonchak of the Army’s 19 Rashtriya Rifles. The bodies of Singh and Dhonchak have not been retrieved so far.

DSP Bhat’s father, Ghulam Hassan Bhat, retired from J&K Police as Deputy Inspector General. The younger Bhat, a 2018 Jammu Kashmir Police Service officer, had gotten married last year and has a two-month old daughter.

The Army didn’t share more details about the deceased officers.

Dilbag Singh, Director General of J&K Police, Lt Gen Rajiv Ghai, who heads the strategic Chinar Corps based in Srinagar which supervises the Army’s operations in Kashmir, and Vijay Kumar, Additional Director General of J&K Police, arrived in Gadol along with other senior officers of security establishment on Wednesday afternoon to assess the situation.

DGP Singh later led a wreath-laying ceremony for the slain police officer which was also attended by J&K’s Chief Secretary Arun Mehta and other officers of the civil and security administration.

According to reports, a major search operation has been launched to track down the perpetrators with drones and choppers conducting aerial reconnaissance surveys around the forested areas of Gadol to keep an eye on any suspicious movement.

The Resistance Front, which officials believe is an offshoot of Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba, has claimed responsibility for the “revenge attack”, according to several posts on social media. The Wire, however, couldn’t verify the authenticity of these claims.

Soldier killed in Narla

The encounter took place more than a month after three army soldiers were gunned down in a forested area in the adjoining Kulgam district of south Kashmir. A Jaish-e-Mohammad-linked terror outfit had claimed responsibility for the attack in which two more Army soldiers were injured.

The setback for security forces in Kokernag came on a day when the Army gunned down two terrorists in Rajouri district of Jammu. An Army soldier was also killed in the operation in Narla village while three more soldiers were injured.

In the initial exchange of gunfire in Rajouri, Kent, a six-year-old female Labrador of the Army’s dog unit, was shot and died while trying to save her handler.

Earlier this year, at least 10 Army soldiers, including five commandos of the elite para unit were killed in two separate attacks and encounters in Poonch and Rajouri districts of Pir Panjal, a region which remained free of terrorism for nearly two decades.

Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General Upendra Dwivedi told reporters on the sidelines of a function at IIT Jammu that Pakistan was pushing foreign terrorists into J&K to disrupt peace.

“Pakistan is trying to make efforts from its side to send foreign terrorists here, despite the better internal conditions (security situation), so that they can create some kind of obstacle. This is because of the progress that we are making in Jammu and Kashmir,” Lt Gen Dwivedi said.