New Delhi: Three militants were killed and a policeman was injured in a gunfight—unhindered by stone pelting—between the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and security forces in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) on Wednesday.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Rashtriya Rifles and the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the J&K Police were engaged in the gunbattle with the militants that began at 6.30am, the CRPF said.
“The forces were conducting a combing operation in the area during a house-to-house search. There was intelligence regarding the militants who were holed up in the area. This time, there was no hindrance from locals by way of stone pelting,” said a senior CRPF official, on condition of anonymity.
The third exchange in 10 days between militants and the security forces came in the backdrop of New Delhi agreeing to hold talks with Islamabad on the 1960 Indus Water Treaty in Lahore later this month—a move that may lead to a thaw in ties between the neighbouring nations.
Gunfights also broke out on 5 March in Tral district and 9 March in Pulwama’s Awantipora village, the latter causing the deaths of two LeT militants and a 15-year-old civilian boy.
“The disruption caused by civilians is extremely damaging for the forces, because they break the security cordon and engage with the forces in stone pelting. So they get caught in the firing,” said Zulfiquar Hasan, Inspector General (operations) of Kashmir, CRPF.
The home ministry has made its displeasure known over the series of attacks.
“Yes, the Pakistan government continues to violate the ceasefire agreements and official sources in Pakistan continue to support cross border firing, sabotage and infiltration into India. Immediate and effective retaliation by Indian Army and BSF Personnel is carried out during instances of unprovoked fire and ceasefire violations. In addition, all violations of ceasefire are taken up with Pakistan authorities at the appropriate levels, through established mechanisms,” minister of state for home Hansraj Ahir told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
Cross-border infiltration and attacks continue to affect strained India-Pakistan ties. Although India and Pakistan signed a ceasefire agreement in November 2003, the home ministry says India registered 449 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir since then, while till February 2017 alone, there have been 28 violations.
On Saturday, India protested the recent attacks with Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner, Syed Haider Shah. While airing its grievances against Pulwama encounter, India’s foreign ministry maintained that “Pakistan employs this tactic to focus international attention on its dispute over Kashmir with India.”
Pakistan denied the claims and maintained that it “responds to unprovoked firing from the Indian side.”
Elizabeth Roche contributed to this story.