In a frantic, terrifyingly close quarter fight, 5 Pakistani terrorist infiltrators were killed in the Jumgund area of north Kashmir’s Kupwara sector on Sunday, the biggest incursion attempt since the snows have begun to melt. The encounter has also become one of the most costly for the Indian Special Forces, with 5 men of the elite 4 Para (SF) killed in action.
The five men have been identified as Subedar Sanjeev Kumar and Paratrooper Bal Krishan from Himachal Pradesh, Havildar Davendra Singh and Paratrooper Amit Kumar from Uttarakhand, and Paratrooper Chhatrapal Singh from Rajasthan.
The terrorists had infiltrated across the Line of Control last week. Movement had been noticed near fence on April 1/Wednesday from drone imagery. This was confirmed on the ground with footprints in the snow not far from the LoC. On Wednesday itself, search parties comprising troops from the 8 Jat Regiment were launched. On Wednesday afternoon, there was a brief exchange of fire after which the terrorists fled their position abandoning some of their bags, containing ammunition. The area was quickly cordoned off.
At dawn on April 2/Thursday, troops from 41 and 57 Rashtriya Rifles joined the operation. Troops once again established contact with the terrorists at about 4.30pm. The terrorists returned heavy fire before slipping off one by one from a ledge. The chase continued, with contact established twice more on April 3 and 4.
On April 4/Saturday, two squads of the 4 Para (Special Forces) — with six men each — were deployed for a forward staging to the nearest battalion headquarters, and from there to Rangdoori, Guguldara and Teen Behak areas of Jumgund. They needed to chopper it in as the battalion remains cut off by winter snow. The Dhruv helicopter dropped them off on a hill feature in waist deep snow. The intention was to conduct a search operation from top down. The SF troops used quadcopter drones at this point to try and pinpoint precise locations of the 5-6 terrorists.
Over the day, intermittent exchanges of fire continued from 2 locations, and then narrowed down to just one location. Tracking movements across two days, it became clear that the terrorists had been cornered into a part of Kupwara’s dense Zurhama forest lower down the hill feature. Final contact with the terrorists was established on Saturday evening.
Subedar Sanjiv along with Paratroopers Amit and Chhatrpal tried to close in with the terrorist location. Tracking footsteps in the snow, the three men tragically realised too late that they were on a cornice — an overhanging mass of hardened snow at the edge of a mountain precipice. It broke under their weight and they fell into a nallah, a frozen mountain stream, right into where the terrorists were hiding. This led to a close quarter fight in the most literal sense. Paratrooper Amit sustained 15 bullet injuries while Subedar Sanjiv and Paratrooper Chhatarpal also took heavy fire. They managed to kill two of the 5 terrorists before succumbing to their injuries. The three other men, Havildar Davender and Paratrooper Balkishan rushed downward to extract their three comrades, charging into the exchange, quickly eliminating two more terrorists. A fifth terrorist who fled from the spot was killed by troops from 8 Jat. Only one man from the Special Forces squad survived, with injuries.
In the words of an officer familiar with details, “As luck would have it, where they fell, the militants were sitting right there. This led to a firefight at virtually point blank range. I have to give it to the training standards of the SF guys. Inspite of the fall, all five terrorists were killed. The squad was almost wiped out.”
Two soldiers succumbed to their injuries on Sunday evening after being airlifted to Srinagar’s Army hospital. The remains of the other 3 commandos and the terrorists were found within just two meters of each other.
The 4 Para (Special Forces) is the Army unit that undertook the 2016 surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in which 38 terrorists were killed.