J&K Encounter : Surge in Terrorist Activity: Jammu and Kashmir Witnessing Three Encounters in Five Days
For four consecutive days, the encounter in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag has persisted, raising concerns due to several challenging factors, including highly trained terrorists, difficult terrain, dense forests, and adverse weather conditions. The operation has not been without sacrifice, as it has claimed the lives of three officers, Colonel Manpreet Singh, Major Aashish Dhonchak of the 19 Rashtriya Rifles, and Deputy Superintendent Himayun Bhat of the Jammu and Kashmir Police. Additionally, a soldier is missing, and at least two more personnel have been injured.
The terrorists are currently holed up in a cave situated atop a hill within the Gadul forests of Kokernag. This location provides them with both protection and complete visibility of the movements of the joint Army and police team that has encircled them. The challenging path leading to the cave, characterized by a lack of cover and a steep drop on one side, was the site of the initial confrontation that resulted in the loss of three personnel’s lives when the team initiated their first offensive during the early hours of Wednesday.
Despite deploying drones, rocket launchers, and mortar shells, the security forces have not yet achieved dominance in the area. Nevertheless, officials express confidence in neutralizing the terrorists as soon as possible.
What raises concerns among authorities is that this encounter is one of three incidents in Jammu and Kashmir within a span of five days, occurring amid a surge in terrorist activity in the Pir Panjal region encompassing the Poonch and Rajouri districts. Former Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police, SP Vaid, believes that the Anantnag encounter indicates yet another shift in strategy by terrorists and their backers in Pakistan.
Sources with knowledge of the situation have revealed that the security forces received intelligence about the terrorists’ presence in the Gadul forests on Tuesday night. Upon learning that they were positioned atop a hill, the decision to launch an attack was made in the early hours of Wednesday.
“The path the forces have to take to get to the top of the hill is quite challenging. It is very narrow, with mountains on one side and dense forest on the other. The personnel began their ascent in the night, and the darkness added to the difficulty,” explained a source.
As the forces ascended, the terrorists opened fire, cornering the personnel. The limited options for extraction meant that the injured officers could not be evacuated to a hospital until morning.
Well-Stocked and Well-Trained
Sources indicate that the terrorists have an ample supply of arms, ammunition, and food, which is evident from their ability to sustain the standoff for nearly 90 hours. Moreover, the number of terrorists is likely higher than the two to three mentioned in most reports.
Among the terrorists in the cave is Uzair Khan, a recent recruit of Lashkar-e-Taiba, who is familiar with the area and is believed to be aiding the group.
“Ordinary terrorists cannot prolong an encounter for such an extended period. They are highly trained, well-armed, and well-prepared. It is also possible that an informant may have betrayed the forces or leaked their movements,” suggested a source.
Heavy rain since Saturday morning has further complicated the operation by reducing visibility and impeding drone operations. Additionally, a fire near the cave where the terrorists are located has added to the difficulties faced by the security forces.
In the past five days, there have been three encounters with terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. The Rajouri district’s Narla area saw the elimination of two terrorists over two days, starting on Tuesday. In the Uri sector of Baramulla, three terrorists were killed while attempting to cross into India from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Pakistani forces reportedly provided covering fire to assist the terrorists’ crossing of the Line of Control, disrupting efforts to retrieve the body of the third terrorist.
Former DGP SP Vaid believes that the Anantnag encounter reflects a shift in terrorist strategy, focusing on hilly and forested areas. This change aims to draw out the forces and expose them to danger while offering the terrorists opportunities to escape.
Furthermore, terrorists aim to prolong encounters for several days to garner international media attention. This shift in strategy necessitates vigilance and adaptability from security forces.