Security forces are closing in on a terrorist hideout deep within the dense forests of Gadol area in Kokernag in south Kashmir in an operation that is now in its sixth day and has seen thousands of troops, including para commandos, engaged in a protracted gunfight with the terrorists.
Three officers, including two from the Army and a policeman, have lost their lives in the encounter so far. The security forces also recovered the charred remains of an unidentified body from a cave.
The terrorists, believed to number between two to three, are heavily armed and strategically positioned within the steep and dense forest terrain. One of the terrorists has been identified as Uzair Khan, who joined Lashkar-e-Taiba last year and is familiar with the area.
The operation has been further complicated by intermittent rainfall at the encounter site, reducing visibility significantly. The Pir Panjal hills boast dense forests, caves, and ditches, making it a challenging environment for the operation.
The security forces are proceeding cautiously, suspecting the possibility of terrorists lying in wait or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted in their hideout.
To mitigate the risks, the army is employing dogs and specialized equipment to detect explosives in the area.
The troops have utilized mortar shells, rockets, advanced drones, and hi-tech equipment to target suspected terrorist hideouts.
The joint operation by the Army and police commenced based on intelligence input, and the terrorists, apparently anticipating the move, opened fire on the forces, trapping them between the dense forest and a deep ditch.
This engagement resulted in the tragic loss of two Army officers, Colonel Manpreet Singh and Major Ashish Dhonchak, and Deputy Superintendent of Police Himayun Bhat. Two more soldiers were injured, while one remains missing.