Three Jaish terrorists, including a Pakistani commander of the group linked to the February 14 CRPF bombing, and an Army major were among nine people killed in a 16-hour encounter in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on Monday, officials said.
At least nine security personnel, including a brigade commander and a lieutenant colonel and a deputy inspector general of the Jammu and Kashmir police, were injured in the gun battle in Pulwama's Pinglan area, about 12 km from where a suicide bomber belonging to the Jaish-e-Mohammed drove his explosives-laden vehicle into a CRPF bus last week, killing 40 jawans.
The Pinglan encounter claimed the lives four Army personnel, a policeman, three Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists and a civilian, the officials said.
Two of the slain terrorists were identified as Kamran, a Pakistani national and top commander of the Jaish, and Hilal Ahmad, a local recruited by the terror group, they said, adding the identity of the third is being ascertained.
"Kamran's role in the February 14 suicide bombing of a CRPF convoy was under the scanner of investigators," a senior police official said.
The slain soldiers were identified as Major V S Dhondial, Havaldar Sheo Ram and Sepoys Hari Singh and Ajay Kumar. A head constable of the police was also killed. The injured included DIG (south Kashmir) Amit Kumar, who received a gunshot wound in the abdomen, and a brigade commander, who was hurt in the leg. All the injured are stable, the officials said.
Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in the area during the night after receiving inputs about the presence of militants there.
Militants fired at forces as the searches got under way, triggering a gun battle, the officials said.
The Jaish has claimed responsibility for the February 14 terror attack that targeted a convoy of 78 vehicles on its way from Jammu to Srinagar. About 2,500 CRPF personnel were on their way to the valley, many returning to work after leave.
The Army paid tributes to the fallen soldiers at a solemn ceremony at Badami Bagh Cantonment, headquarters of the 15 Corps here.
Corps Commander Lt Gen K J S Dhillon led other ranks in paying homage to the four soldiers including Major Dhondial, who laid down their lives in the operation, a defence spokesperson said.
Representatives from other security agencies also joined in paying their last respects to the soldiers.
The spokesperson said the 33-year-old Major had joined Army in 2011 and belonged to village Dangwal in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. He is survived by wife.
Havaldar Ram (36) had joined Army in 2000 and hailed from Jhunjhunu. Rajasthan. He is survived by wife and a son.
Sepoy Singh (26) belonged to Rewari in Haryana. He joined the Army in 2011 and is survived by his wife and son.
Sepoy Kumar hailed from village Bastikri in Meerut, UP. The 27-year-old had joined the Army in 2012 and is survived by his wife and a son.
Their mortal remains were flown for the last rites to their native places, where they would be laid to rest with full military honours.
In this hour of grief, the Army stands in solidarity with the bereaved families of the martyrs and remains committed to their dignity and well being, the spokesperson said.