7 Pak militants, soldier, PDP activist killed
22 July 2004
The Daily Excelsior
Daily Excelsior Correspondent
Jammu: Lashkar-e-Toiba’s deputy chief for Jammu & Kashmir, ‘Colonel’ Usman, was among the five Pakistani militants killed in a fierce gunbattle at Tikkipora village in Kupwara district today. As many as 24 structures, including nine residential houses, were destroyed but none of the soldiers or civilians suffered any damage. Troops killed two more Pakistani militants while making an attempt of infiltration in Karnah sector of Kupwara district even as suspected militants have killed a soldier and an activist of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kashmir valley since last evening. Informed sources told the EXCELSIOR that troops of Rashtriya Rifles 18th Bn, who are part of Army’s Kilo Force, laid siege to Tikkipora village in the militant-infested Lolab valley of Kupwara district in the forenoon today. According to a specific information made available to Army, Pakistani militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba were in a meeting at the house of one Ghulam Nabi Ganai at Ganai Mohalla of Tikkipora. In the afternoon, a fierce gunbattle commenced between the security forces and the holed up militants, which lasted for several hours. Troops fired rockets on the target house, which caught fire and gutted completely. Flames engulfed a cluster of adjoining structures and over two dozen houses and other structures were destroyed in the blaze. However, neither the security forces nor the civilians suffered any damage. Superintendent of Police Kupwara, Sunil Dutt, told the EXCELSIOR that in all five Pakistani militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba were eliminated in the operation. On the basis of the documents and weapons recovered from the debris, he identified two of the slain militants as ‘Col’ Usman and Adil. He said that ‘Col’ Usman had been identified as the Lashkar’s 'deputy chief' for Jammu & Kashmir. SP Kupwara said that three bodies of the militants had been recovered in badly charred condition while two more were likely to be recovered on Friday morning. SP Kupwara said that the eight fire tenders were pressed into service and the fire was brought under control this evening. He said that Army was helpful to the civilian population as it arranged food and night shelter for them all. An Army doctor came to the rescue of a woman who was in acute labour pain. She delivered the baby smoothly, he said. Tikkipora is a militant-infested village in Lolab valley, about 25 Km from the district headquarters of Kupwara. Militants had gunned down the former Minister of State for Home, Mushtaq Ahmed Lone, and his security guards at the same village on September 11, 2002. Unofficial reports put the number of the gutted structures at 48. According to this break-up, 20 residential houses, 13 cowsheds, two shops, six granaries and seven timber sheds had perished in the inferno. However, DC Kupwara, Abdul Majeed Khanday, told EXCELSIOR that only nine residential houses and 15 granaries-cowsheds had gutted. He said that he had accordingly submitted a report to the higher authorities on the basis of the report of Additional DC Sharafat Ali Khan. Khan and SP Kupwara, Sunil Dutt, visited the village today. DC Kupwara said that he would be rushing to the village on Friday with a cash relief of Rs 1.00 Lakh in favour of each family affected in the blaze, besides some material help. Sources said that troops of 5-1 GR observed some militants cutting the lately installed barbed wire fencing at Ismail Ki Deri, close to LoC, in Karnah sector of Kupwara last night. Troops opened fire, killing two militants on the spot. At least three members of the infiltrating group are believed to have escaped. Official sources claimed that both the slain militants were Pakistani nationals and most likely members of Lashkar-e-Toiba. Two AK-56 rifles and a wire- cutter were seized from the possession of the slain militants. Meanwhile, an ITBP soldier got killed when an IED, believed to have been planted by militants at Rishipora, near Mirgund (Pattan), went off this afternoon. Police and security forces defused another IED, planted by militants, at Bemina Crossing in Srinagar outskirts today. Reports from south Kashmir said that unidentified gunmen, believed to be militants, appeared at Chhatergul in Shangus area of Anantnag district and fired upon one Hilal Ahmed Khan S-o Ghulam Hassan Khan at his home. Khan, who was a PDP activist and chemist, died on spot. A number of PDP activists have been left dead and injured by militants in Anantnag— Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s home district—in the last three months.