December 2000 News

J&K: Army loses 35 men in 30 days

27 December 2000
The Pioneer
Rahul Datta

New Delhi: The task of maintaining peace during the ongoing ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir is proving to be a daunting task for security forces. With more than 35 men in uniform dead in the last 30 days, the ''threshold of tolerance'' is approaching fast for the security forces. Having stopped all combat operations against militants in Kashmir since November 28, the senior commanders are a worried lot about the morale of their troops with mounting casualties. Moreover, the local citizens are not forthcoming with information about foreign militants hiding amidst them, they argue. ''If the present rate of casualties continues and the citizens unwilling join hands to ensure peace, the threshold of tolerance would come sooner than later,'' fears a field level officer. The operational commanders said here on Wednesday that the ceasefire would not have the desired affect till the masses denied safe sanctuary to the foreign militants owing allegiance to Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Harkat-Ul-Mujahideen and Al Badr. The citizens were forced to give shelter to these militants and that stage had not reached when the common man stood up and refused refuge to the militants, sources admitted. Reacting to the Srinagar incident on Monday when a car bomb exploded on a busy thoroughfare outside the Corps headquarters gate killing 11 people including civilians and Armymen, sources said the foreign militants were increasingly going in for ''stand-off'' attacks. A ''stand-off'' attack sees the militants targetting an army patrol, convoy or a camp from distance with a rocket, grenade or triggering off an improvised explosive device (IED). Most of the militants were fairly conversant with Srinagar and neighbouring areas as they were operating there for last one year or so, sources said. They did not face any problem of logistics or planning an attack as the people were still terrified of them. The only way to make the ceasefire productive was to deny the foreign militants a base in Kashmir and an end to infiltrations from across the border. Sources said the foreign militants had to be eliminated or forced to leave Kashmir. They, however, said Pakistan was not willing to allow the mercenaries to return. These heavily armed men would wreak havoc in Pakistan and destroy the already fragile social fabric there, officials monitoring the Kashmir situation said. These militants were not the indoctrinated ''jehadis'' but common criminals, sources said. Having got used to the power of trigger and snuffing out a human life without any remorse, these mercenaries were also not welcome in Pakistan The military junta, moreover, was slowly losing control over these elements and the ''mullahs'' were now openly criticising the Pervez Musharraf regime for responding to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee''s peace overtures, officials said. 


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