Massive operation to flush out militants in Kashmir
Helicopters and drones circled the air and more than 4,000 troops on Thursday fanned out across south Kashmir's Shopian district in a massive operation to flush out militants holed up inside homes.
The operation targeting militants who have been hiding in the area and striking against security forces began in the wee hours on Thursday with security forces, comprising army, police and CRPF, marching into more than a dozen villages in the district, army sources said.
There have been no casualties so far. The operation in Shopian, about 55 km from here, was perhaps the biggest in more than a decade in the troubled Kashmir Valley, an army official said on the condition of anonymity.
A door-to-door search of houses, a practice stopped in the late 1990s, was re-introduced on Thursday. The troops asked all villagers to assemble in a common area so a proper search of their homes could be carried out,
"We do not wish to have any civilian casualty and the measure was therefore required," said a senior army official engaged in the operation.
The cordon and search operation (CASO) followed intelligence inputs about the presence of militants, including foreign terrorists, in the area, an official said. However, no contact had been established with the militants so far.
Aiding the security forces, which included a team of concealed anti-terrorists (CAT), on the ground were drones providing real-time intelligence to the troops.
Barring a minor stone pelting incident at Turkawangan village, the operation was going on smoothly, an official said.
After carrying out a search operation, security forces carried out a 'reverse sweep' of the entire region once again in order to ensure that none of the militants had slipped in after the earlier cordon ended.
Meanwhile, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said on Thursday, hinted at a possible retaliation to the Pakistan military beheading two Indian soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir.
Replying to a volley of questions on whether the army will respond to the barbaric act, Rawat, without giving a direct reply, said the armed forces will effectively respond to such actions by the neighbouring country.
"We do not talk about future plans beforehand. We share details after execution of the plan," Gen Rawat said, refusing to elaborate further.
Pressed further, he said, "When this kind of action takes place, we also carry out retaliatory action". He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an event.