5000 Trained Militants In Pak Camps Waiting To Cross LoC: Lt Gen Panag
15 September 2007
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: About 5000 trained militants in nearly 52 terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Pak occupied Kashmir (PoK) and also at various launching pads closer to the Line of Control are waiting to cross over to this side. While the number of terrorists eliminated along the LoC and interior areas by the troops this year has considerably reduced to 323 from 425 as achieved last year, the level of infiltration has increased despite the fencing along the international border and Line of Control. Nearly, 278 militants crossed over to this side of the J&K State by the end of August 2007. General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Army Command, Lt Gen H S Panag while talking to media-persons here said that a significant increase in the infiltration of the armed terrorists has been witnessed along the LoC in last several months and several attempts are made by them every day. Though fencing has been erected besides, the installation of censors, yet it is not possible to bring intrusion to zero level in view of tough and rugged terrain, several nallas and the topography as well. Referring to some inputs from across the border, Northern Army Chief said about 4000 to 5000 odd trained militants are looking for the opportunities to cross over to this side and join operations with other cadre. Out of the nearly 52 training camps at present operating on that side, about 28- 30 are located in PoK and the Northern areas. Lt Gen Panag disclosed that about 1200 to 1500 militants were operating in Jammu and Kashmir and nearly 323 were killed by troops this year (upto ending August). They are getting better support from that side and terrorists outfit as per their strategy want to maintain pressure and carry on their activities by indulging in subversive activities. He denied the presence of any mobile militant training camps in J&K but maintained that at local level in some remote areas, ultras may sometimes involve local youth and lure them for imparting a little training in handling weapon and handling explosives and such inputs were received from certains areas. Describing Pakistan as 'friendly' country, Northern Army Commander said that taking advantage of the cease-fire, its troops carried out some defence works but most of the works were conducted within their own side and about 500 inside the borders as per agreement. They repaired some bunkers in Poonch and Uri area which were damaged due to earthquake and when they were found violating agreement, the matter was resolved at flag meetings conducted at local commanders level. On being asked about reason behind not involving Air Force, Helicopters in anti-terrorists operations in J&K like forces doing in Pakistan and Afghanistan, GOC- in-C said,' We are people friendly Army and can not even think of using gunships, artillery or helicopters in such operations. In Pakistan and Afghanistan many civilians became casualty of the Army action on terrorists. Our motive is to eliminate terrorists, causing no damage to innocent civilians or their property in operations. When helicopters and gunships will be used there will be more chances of major civilians killings. When greater force is applied in such operations, greater will be the reaction and you can well imagine the level of reaction in Pakistan over a few incidents including that of Lal Masjid. This kind of decision is taken at the Government level which is justified also. Helicopters are used in operations here for rushing troops and arms ammunition to the troubled remote and inaccessible areas and not in heavy shelling for targetting militant's hide-outs, exposing civilians to maximum danger,' he added. Responding to another question on reduction of troops in J&K, Northern Army Commander said, ' until some comprehensive agreement is made with Pakistan or number of terrorists and their activities decrease considerably, I think at least the existing strength of the troops is required in the Jammu and Kashmir to maintain peace and tranquillity and ensure security of the people here.' He said out of the total force hardly 25% is involved in the operations and other activities in the State. In reply to other questions regarding allegations of misbehaviour of senior Army Officer of Northern Command against a Lady officer and eggs and meat supplies scam which hit the newspapers headlines recently, Lt Gen Panag said Court of inquiry has already been initiated in these cases. We will never shield any official if found guilty and stringent action as per law will be taken against the accused. But the charges have not been proved against anybody so far. Referring to the increasing number of incidents of suicide by jawans and soldiers running amok and killing seniors, Army Commander said that in most of the cases which came to light, soldiers had some family problems. They are working under hard pressed circumstances and stress is also the other reason. Several welfare measures for the soldiers have been introduced and trained councilors are being appointed in the battalions to look after the troops and the religious persons in the units have also given the additional responsibility of holding interactions with the jawans and advise them at times.