The week-long joint anti-terror operation in the Garol forests in the Anantnag district ended after seven days on Tuesday, with two terrorists, including Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Uzair Khan being neutralised, police said.
The death toll in the operation reached six, which included four security forces personnel.
Sharing details, additional director general of police (ADGP) Vijay Kumar said two terrorists were killed at the encounter site, adding that the search would continue to locate and destroy explosive shells and grenades in the dense Garole forest area in Kokernag.
“So far we found the body of Uzair Khan and have retrieved that as well. The dead body of the second terrorist is visible, but has not been retrieved yet,” Kumar said in Kokernag.
Khan, a resident of Nagam in Anantnag, had gone missing in July 2022. After his family filed a missing report, they were informed of him joining the Lashkar-e-Taiba. A school dropout, Khan had done a diploma in electrical works and was working as an electrician before taking the drastic step.
One of the deadliest and longest operations in recent past, the searches saw security forces lose four of their men — including two officers, a jawan of the army, and a deputy superintendent of police (DSP) — in the initial blow by militants on Wednesday.
Colonel Manpreet Singh, the commanding officer of 19 Rashtriya Rifles, Major Aashish Dhonchak, also from the same battalion, DSP Humayun Muzamil Bhat were initially killed in the encounter. Singh, Dhonchak and Khan were leading teams that were hot on the trail of the militants in the treacherous terrain and were fired upon from concealed positions while climbing a steep slope.
The body of sepoy Pardeep Singh, meanwhile, was recovered on Monday.
The army and police had launched a joint operation on Tuesday night after receiving intelligence about militant movement and their likely hideout in the forested area. The operation involved some of the army’s toughest fighting men, including those from the special forces, and counterterrorism specialists from Jammu and Kashmir Police.
For the past seven days, security forces targeted the alpine forest and natural cave like structures suspected to be militant hideouts and fired several mortar shells and grenades towards the hilly forest area.
Security forces also deployed drones and helicopters for surveillance of the dense forest area to trace the holed up militants. Dramatic footage of a drone locating a hideout deep in the woods and forces subsequently destroying it with explosives became viral on social media.
Kumar said they will pursue to find the body of a possible third terrorist, adding, “We had information about 2-3 terrorists. Maybe the body of the third militant will be there so we will complete the search.”
The ADGP said the area will also be cleared of live explosives in the forested area.
“The search operation will continue. There is a lot of area remaining which needs to be searched. There will be blind shells which will be recovered and destroyed. People are also requested not to visit the spot because there are chances of live shells and grenades lying there,” he added.
Lieutenant governor, Manoj Sinha on Tuesday laid a wreath and paid homage to sepoy Pardeep Singh, killed during the operation in Anantnag.
“I bow to the exemplary courage and sacrifice of our braveheart. A grateful nation will always remain indebted to his martyrdom. The entire nation stands firmly with his family in this hour of grief,” he said.
Army officials said Singh was a resident of Punjab’s Patiala adding, “The body has reached Patiala to be handed over to the next of kin.”