SRINAGAR: The ongoing encounter in the Gadool area of Kokernag hamlet, in the southern district of Anantnag, has entered its fourth consecutive day. This situation prompted the Northern Army Commander, Lt General Upendra Dwivedi, to visit the encounter site and assess the situation in the midst of ongoing rains.
Despite employing the latest gadgets and weapons to track down the militants, there is no concrete evidence as to whether the militants are still hiding in the area or if they have managed to flee.
An official informed the news agency KNO that intermittent firing was witnessed throughout the day on Saturday as the operation was halted due to darkness. “During the day, the operation was paused due to rains,” the official said.
He further mentioned that para commandos, along with an additional 20 companies of forces, have already been sent to the area to search for militants hiding in the dense forests, and their movements are being closely monitored by helicopters.
“During the joint security operation, we used grenade launchers and shells on suspected militant hideout locations using drones, but as of now, there is no confirmation of any militant casualties as nobody has been spotted,” he said.
The official added that civilians living close to the area have already been evacuated to safer places, and drones, including herons, have been deployed to locate and neutralize the hiding militants. “There is no confirmation of any militant casualties so far due to the challenging terrain and forested area,” the official stated.
Northern Army Commander Lt General Upendra Dwivedi visited the encounter site and reviewed the operational situation of the ongoing operation in the Kokernag forest area. He received briefings from ground commanders regarding the high-intensity operation, which employs hi-tech equipment for surveillance and firepower delivery, along with the precision fire used by the forces.
Meanwhile, a senior police officer from Kishtwar said that they share a boundary with Anantnag district and that the army and police forces have been stationed in higher reaches for the last three days. “We have secured the area and are in coordination with the Kashmir police to remain vigilant in case of any movement in our area,” he said. The ongoing encounter in the Gadool forests of the Kokernag area is proving to be one of the most challenging, given the difficult terrain and erratic weather conditions.
It is worth noting that during the initial exchange of fire on Wednesday, Colonel Manpreet Singh, the commanding officer of 19 RR, Major Aashish Dhonchak, and DySP Humayun Bhat, the son of former DIG Kashmir Ghulam Muhammad Bhat, were killed.
On Thursday, the operation continued, resulting in two soldiers receiving injuries; they were subsequently shifted to the hospital for treatment. On Friday, the body of a soldier who had been missing since Wednesday during the gunfight with militants was recovered from the encounter site.
The Kokernag encounter is the largest in South Kashmir since August 5 of this year when three soldiers of the army’s 34 RR were killed in the Halan Manzgam forest area of Kulgam district. On March 30, 2020, five security personnel, including a Colonel, a Major, and a sub-inspector, were killed in an 18-hour-long encounter in north Kashmir’s Handwara.
This is the first encounter in the district in approximately the last four months. In May, contact was established with militants in the Sagam area of Kokernag; however, they later managed to evade the forces.
Anantnag district, according to police records, has only one or two local militants active, including Uzair Khan of the Nagam area of Kokernag, and has remained relatively calm compared to the other three districts in South Kashmir.
So far this year, 51 militants have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir, with 41 being foreigners and 10 locals. Officials have reported approximately 20 security forces killed this year in militant attacks and encounters. (KNO)