MUSHKOH VALLEY: For the first time since the withdrawal of Pakistani troops started, the Indian Army reached close to the Line of Control (LoC) in Mushkoh Valley, occupying two prominent features: Points 5060 and 5062. But the Army lost four soldiers, two each in Mushkoh and Batalik.
The infantry lost two soldiers in Mushkoh in mine-clearing operations despite exercising extreme caution, while advancing towards areas vacated by the Pakistani intruders. The intruders had put up maximum resistance in some pockets of Mushkoh and Drass.
Though they had started retreating from Drass on Thursday, the ones in Mushkoh remained stubbornly entrenched. It was only last night that the Indian Army noticed signs of the intruders withdrawing, vacating their positions. This made the withdrawal "near complete" in most of the sectors but the Army continued to closely monitor the activities of the retreating infiltrators.
"We saw them withdrawing and then noticed some suspicious activity. On a closer look, wesaw that the retreating Pakistani troops were trying to carry back their injured and bury the dead. When our infantry soldiers saw them perform the last burial rites, they left them alone to do it in peace. It was only after the burial that they started moving towards the LoC," said an officer here.
According to him, the advance of the infiltrators towards the LoC was quite slow. "Not only are their spirits and morale down, even the terrain is slowing down their progress. They must be aware of the extended deadline. We are taking the additional `one or two days' given by the government in Delhi as 24 hours. So the intruders have time till the dawn of tomorrow to clear our territory completely and go over the LoC. Beyond that nobody can save them," the officer warned.
The guns remained silent in Drass, Kargil and Mushkoh Valley but in Batalik, the night saw intense artillery action. Pakistan resorted to unprovoked shelling, killing two Indian soldiers in the sector. Indian artillery also retaliated withshelling in the area.
The infantry, in the meantime, continued to advance gradually, occupying peaks vacated by the infiltrators. They recovered large amounts of arms and ammunition, ration and food supplies left behind by the infiltrators. "They obviously did not want to carry back much load. Probably because they were taking back their injured," another officer said.
Meanwhile, the jubilant units of infantry soldiers who had won the peaks and had been manning them since, came down for rest and relaxation. Other units were sent to replace them. The Army had made arrangements for satellite phones, mobile televisions and dish antennae for the soldiers in the Drass Brigade headquarters.
"This is the least we can do for the men who have fought hard to defeat the enemy and recover our territory," said a senior officer here.
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