Two Pakistani terrorists were killed in the ongoing counter-terror operation in the forested Baajimaal area of the Kalakote sub-division of Rajouri district.
The operation has so far claimed the lives of four army soldiers, including two captain-ranked officers and two army jawans.
The deceased are identified as Captain MV Pranjal, belonging to 63 Rashtriya Rifles, and Captain Shubham Gupta belonging to 9 Para Special Forces.
One Havildar Majid and a fourth yet-to-be-identified soldier, both belonging to the 9 Para Special Forces, have also been killed.
A major, also from the 9 Para, was injured and has been evacuated to the Command Hospital at Udhampur.
One of the terrorists has been identified as Qari, a Pakistani national affiliated with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), holding a high rank within the group.
Qari was deployed by Pakistan with the specific mission of reviving terrorism in the region.
The Defence Public Relations Officer (PRO) Jammu described him as an expert in handling improvised explosive devices (IEDs), adept at operating and concealing himself in caves, and a trained sniper.
Qari received training on the Pakistan-Afghanistan front and is considered a highly-ranked leader of LeT, according to the PRO. Active in the Rajouri-Poonch region for the past year, Qari is believed to be the mastermind behind the Dangri and Kandi attacks.
The security forces launched the joint operation on Sunday (19 November) following two reports of suspicious movements of terrorists that came to the police station from the locals.
First, the terrorists visited a house near Keri Chaddar village for food, and second, they beat up a man when he refused to give them food. Both incidents were reported to the police, following which a joint search operation was launched.
"Contact was established on (22 November), and an intense firefight ensued. The terrorists have been injured and surrounded, and operations are in progress amidst acts of valour and sacrifice by our Bravehearts in trying to prevent collateral damage to women and children in the highest traditions of the Indian Army," the Indian Army 16 (White Knight) Corps incharge of operations in the area stated in a post on X.
In the gunfight, four personnel of the army lost their lives. The terrorists are hiding and taking advantage of the thickly wooded forest in the area.
Initially, it was believed that two terrorists were involved in the encounter, but given its prolonged duration, officials now suspect that the number could be higher.
Senior army commanders are overseeing the operation, and the security forces have surrounded the terrorists from all sides.
This comes just two months after another week-long encounter (13-20 September) in the Kokernag area of Anantnag district in J&K that killed four security forces personnel and two terrorists.
In the encounter, Colonel Manpreet, the Commanding Officer (CO) of the Rashtriya Rifles unit — 19 RR, Major Ashish Dhonchak, a soldier, and Jammu and Kashmir Police (JKP) Deputy Superintendent (DSP) Humayun Bhat were killed.
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