Army Ropes In Drones, Choppers To Track Down Militants In Kupwara

19 November 2015
The Hindu
Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar: Several Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants remained holed up in the dense forests of Kupwara district, 90 km from Srinagar, in north Kashmir for the seventh consecutive day on Thursday even as the Army deployed drones and helicopters to track them down. There was no exchange of fire, but more than three square kilometres of the Manigah area remained under siege. 'The topography is coming to the rescue of the militants,' a top security agency official said. 'The visibility is low. On ground, the visibility does not go beyond four metres because of the dense forest.' Manigah is a bowl-shaped valley with steep gorges and a dense forest cover. In winter, the residents leave the mud hutments for the plains. 'We suspect they are hiding in these bahaks [mud hutments],' the official said. Last week, drones were deployed to capture images based on thermal technology. However, no one could be traced, sources said. After Colonel Santosh Mahadik was killed on Tuesday, the Army intensified its search operation and flew choppers to locate the militants. Five hiding Sources said some five militants were hiding in the area. On November 10, a Lashkar militant's body was found here. The cold had apparently taken his life. Global positioning system (GPS) and wireless sets were recovered from him. The cold is slowing down the operation as bringing in reinforcements takes time in the inhospitable terrain. The first major exchange of fire started on November 13 and continued till Wednesday. A senior official said a militant may have been injured in the operation. 'We found a pheran and some cartridges today,' the official said. Security agencies ruled out that the militants were trying to contact handlers across the border. 'There seems to be no attempt to use satellite phones or any gadget,' he said. Lashkar killed Mahadik The LeT said the group had killed the colonel. The outfit's spokesperson, Adbullah Ghaznavi, described the killing as 'another blow to the government forces after the killing of J&K police sub-inspector Altaf Dar.' 'We congratulate the bravehearts of LeT, especially the new Chief, Abu Musa, who after Abu Qasim's death has taken the responsibility well. We expect more of such successes from him and his team,' the LeT statement said.