NEW DELHI, JUNE 20: After three weeks of fierce fighting, last night Indian troops finally captured the crucial Point 5140, which overlooks the Leh-Srinagar highway, the Army announced today.
At 17,000 ft along the Tuloling Ridge Line, this point was the highest position occupied by the Pakistan Army intruders in the Kargil sector until yesterday. "The success is significant because the intruders used to have a clear view of the Srinagar-Leh highway (NH-1A) and had been firing mortars at several places when our convoys were passing by," said Army spokesman Col Bikram Singh.
He added: "Indian troops have now regained complete control of the Tuloling Ridge Line and have cleared all the intruders from this area. But now our men, who are atop Point 5140, are being subjected to heavy artillery and mortar shelling from across the LoC, which is only 800 m from the Line of Control (LoC). We are retaliating with our firepower."
Replying to a question whether the entire highway is now clear from enemy fire,Col Singh said some patches are still left. But the portion across Point 5140 was the most vulnerable yet, he pointed out.
While three Army personnel lost their lives and nine more were wounded in last night's fighting, mop-up operations are on to assess the casualties on the other side.
According to Col Singh, about 100 Pakistan Army soldiers from the Northern Light Infantry had been entrenched at Point 5140 before the operations began. "Reports from our troops there indicate that we have inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy. And the survivors, many of them injured, have retreated across the LoC into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). The figures of their casualties should be available by tomorrow," he said.
Indian troops had captured Tuloling proper on May 29. Two weeks later, they moved ahead capturing Point 4590. Other places like Saddle, Hump and Point 5105 fell in the next few days. But Point 5140 remained almost impregnable till last night.
The Army said the final assault to capture Point5140 began from different directions early yesterday, with three battalions, once each from the Garhwal Rifles, Jammu and Kashmir Rifles and Naga Regiment.
In fact, the operations to evict the intruders from the Tuloling Ridge Line began on May 26, with combat aircraft and helicopter gunships of the Air Force launching air strikes. The air strikes continued till June 12.
"Our aircraft played a very important role in softening up the intruders," said Air Force spokesman Group Captain D N Ganesh. "Despite the constant threats from Stinger missiles, we sustained the attacks. The sacrifice of the four Mi-17 crew who were shot down on May 28 has not gone in vain."
Meanwhile, Col Singh added that Indian troops have recovered a pay book of another Pakistan soldier during operations in the Batalik sector. The soldier's name is mentioned as Sepoy Abdul Rauf from the 5, Northern Light Infantry.
"We already have proof that soldiers from the 3,4 and 6 battalions of the Northern Light Infantry of Pakistan have intruded into Indian territory. The pay book now reveals that a fourth battalion is also operating in the pockets of intrusion," he said.
The success at Point 5140 has apparently boosted the morale of Indian troops fighting to evict intruders from other parts of the Kargil Sector and Drass and Batalik sub-sectors. Latest reports have indicated that heavy fighting is on to recapture Tiger Hills, close to Tuloling in the Drass sub-sector.The Air Force, however, could not carry out air strikes today because of bad weather in the Kargil sector.
In a related development, several retired soldiers and officers have offered their services for the ongoing fight against Pakistan Army intruders. "I have received a large number of letters from retired soldiers and officers who have offered their services in any capacity and without any pay," Army Chief Gen V P Malik said in a statement. "Their only request is to be able to serve the nation."
Agencies add that at least two civilians were killed and four more, including a woman, injured in artillery shelling by Pakistani troops from across the LoC in the Poonch and Palanwalla sectors.
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