First In 3 Years: Colonel Killed In Kashmir23 June 2010
Times of India
Srinagar: A 40-year-old colonel commanding a Rashtriya Rifles unit was killed while battling terrorists in the dense forests of north Kashmir's Lolab Valley, around 105km from Srinagar. Col Neeraj Sood is the first colonel to be killed in the state in three years and the fourth officer to fall to terrorist bullets in 2010. A defence spokesperson said Col Sood, who was commanding 18 Rashtriya Rifles, was critically injured in gunbattle late on Tuesday and died in hospital. His wife and 11-year-old daughter, who were visiting him in Srinagar during summer vacation, flew back to Delhi with his body on Wednesday. The spokesperson said the encounter began after security forces were tipped off on terrorist presence in Saiwan village. 'Col Sood received a bullet in his head and died of his injuries at a hospital in Kupwara,' he said. The encounter was on and reinforcements were being rushed to the area when reports last came in. Col Sood's widow, Priti, and daughter Mishika were to return to their Delhi home just ahead of the July 1 school reopening. The Army announced a funeral with full military honours on Thursday. The last time a colonel died in action in the valley was on July 30, 2007, when Col Vasant V of the 9 Maratha Light Infantry was killed at Uri along the LoC in North Kashmir's Baramulla district. Major Yoginder Rajbar and a trooper were killed in an encounter at Chatibandi in North Kashmir's Bandipora district on May 5, two months after Major Joginder Shikhwant died in an anti-terrorist operation at Akal Kangan in Central Kashmir's Ganderbal district on March 20. A month earlier, Captain Devindar Singh Jass and two soldiers were killed in a protracted gunbattle near the North Kashmir town of Sopore on February 24. Also on Wednesday, sources said two terrorists were killed and an officer injured in another gunbattle with armed infiltrators along the LoC in Poonch. 'Lt Nikhil Basmeet of 12 Grenadiers was injured in the encounter that was triggered after security forces intercepted a group of five armed infiltrators trying to sneak into the Indian side at Nato Kalsa forward post between Bandi Chichiyan and Gul Tarian villages,' a source said. 'The officer is out of danger and recuperating at a military hospital.' Sources said after a half an hour lull late on Tuesday night, the exchange of fire continued intermittently until Wednesday morning, when security forces launched a combing operation in the area.