Army’s claim over Keran operations under cloud

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Srinagar, October 20:   Nearly a fortnight after the army operations were called off in Keran sector, questions have cropped up over what happened during the long intrusion by infiltrators from Pakistan believed to be from its special forces.

The army operations, which were said to have been stopped on October 8, continued even five days later till a joint team of BSF and army managed to reach the three border posts located in Shalabhatu, a village divided between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, official sources said.

Shalabatu village was one of the famous infiltration routes in early 1990s.

A report filed by central as well as state security agencies about the Keran encounter have picked holes in the army’s version of the episode.

However, the army rejected all doubts expressed over the Keran operation and asserted that the troops on the ground were dominating the Line of Control (LoC) and regularly approaching their own posts all the time.

The army’s narrative that it killed eight terrorists around the site of infiltration was nailed in the FIRs filed by its units with the local police that said the causalities were reported from three different places that are far off from the Shalabatu village.

The three posts — Khokhri, Kulari and Mangerta — jointly held by the BSF and army were taken over last Saturday.

In an email reply to questions, the Army Headquarters denied it and said, “This is incorrect. The troops on the ground were dominating the LoC and regularly approaching own posts at all times.”

The first FIR was registered on September 24 in which one militant, aged between 65-70, was killed. The FIR, 237/13 was filed in Kupwara mentioning that an encounter had taken place at Lasadnath area, a place from where it takes three days to reach Shalabatu.

The second FIR, 241/13 was filed in Kupwara after one army jawan was injured. This incident had also taken place at Lasadnath area. The third FIR 09/13 was filed on October four in which Army reported that two militants were killed at Gujjar Dor, 27 kms west of Shalabatu village. This FIR was registered at Keran Police station.

In the Gujjar Dor incident, the army claims that it could not recover the body of the third militant. In its reply, army said, “It is a misconception that terrorists had come 20-30 kilometres deep.

“Terrorists initially made a desperate infiltration bid in Shalabatu area, which was foiled by own troops. The survivors attempted to infiltrate from multiple points in adjacent areas in the same sector, like Gujjar Dor and Fatehgali, where they were engaged and eliminated,” it said.

The army also said, “The eighth body was lying on the LoC and could not be recovered without possibility of interference by fire from across the border.”

The sources, however, wondered whether the body was dragged more than 20 km to the LoC.

Some media reports in Pakistan claimed that the Indian Army jawans had kidnapped three civilians from Neelum valley, an area opposite to Keran Sector, out of which two were killed while one escaped.

The fourth FIR was again in Keran on October 5 in which four militants were killed in Fatehgali, a place 30 km from the area.

According to the FIRs, the Army has recovered over seven bodies, 11 AK rifles, 20 pistols, eight rocket launchers, 12 grenade launchers, 44 grenades, one Tommy gun, 41 magazines, 24 magazine pistols, 985 rounds of AK ammunition, 80 rounds of pistol and 52 rounds of Tommy gun and nothing was recovered from Shalabatu area.

However, the army, in its reply, maintained that “during the operations in Keran sector, 59 weapons including 18 AK rifles were recovered and Army has filed FIR of all recoveries.”

The sources said formation commander of the rank of Major General had been making claims of several encounters in the forward areas over past few weeks but had never handed over the bodies as per the norms laid in the law.

Lt Gen Gurmeet Singh, Corps Commander of Kashmir-based 15-Corps, had claimed on September 26 that they had encircled a group of 30 militants out of which 10 to 12 had been killed.

However, till date no bodies were recovered.

While there was no confirmation as to what led to sudden announcement of calling off of the operations on October 8, sources privy to the development said that the Udhampur-based army brass may not have been kept in the loop about the decision.

Doubts were also raised about the claims made in the past by a Major General in charge of Kupwara sector that some encounters had taken place as no bodies had been recovered, the sources said.

Following these incidents, the Defence Ministry may be advised to tell the Commanders at a conference scheduled later this month that over-hyping of any incident is not welcome.

However, the army denied such reports calling them “incorrect and misleading.”

“The army hands over all bodies of terrorists to police on termination of operations.”

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