Captain, 2 jawans killed in Sopore operations to flush out militants

Written by Muzamil Jaleel | Sopore | Updated: Feb 25 2010, 03:32am hrs
As the shadows grew longer and Army men started to close in to end one of the fiercest gunbattles with a small group of Valley militants, there was a sudden burst of gunfire from behind a large piece of debris. For 14 hours, elite paratroopers, trying to flush out militants from a congested Sopore neighbourhood, were also trying to retrieve the body of their officer, Captain Devinder Singh Jass, from the clutches of the militants.

Sources said six militants, including top Harkat-ul-Mujahideen commander Nauman, local commander Bashaarat Saleem and Salahuddin of Lashkar who came from Pakistan to replace Abdullah Unny, were hiding in the neighbourhood.

At the time of filing this report, security forces had blown up three houses, hoping to have killed three militants while one was alive. Two militants, including Nauman, had possibly escaped. The Army lost three men, including the officer.

The Army launched a massive operation on Monday night after receiving specific input about the presence of a group of HuM and Lashkar militants in a house in congested Chinkipora in Sopore town.

Troopers of 1 Para along with a local Rashtriya Rifles unit closed in and at 4.45 am, the first assault party of the para commandos, led by Captain Devinder Singh Jass, moved in to storm the house. But the militants had already split into small groups and taken positions in several houses.

Sources said the input about the presence of militants in one particular house had been misleading. The militants, sources said, were not taken by surprise when the para commandos launched the first assault. As the commandos closed in, militants hurled five-six grenades and opened fire from all directions. There was chaos and several troopers were hit.

The commandos retreated, trying to pull the injured among them to safety. Two jawans were killed in the initial burst of gunfire and grenade attack by the militants. Captain Jass was missing. At this point, a Special Operations Group officer of the J&K Police, accompanying the Army, dialled Jass on his mobile phone. But a militant answered, hurling abuses.

Sources said the militant told the officer that Captain Jass was with them.The militant was offered safe passage along with his other accomplice in exchange for Jass. But the militant said they had already killed the officer.

Then began the difficult operation to retrieve the body of the officer while ensuring that the militants did not slip past the security cordon.

Flashlights were switched on to assist the operation.