One of the longest counter-terrorist operations in Kashmir Valley in recent times ended on its seventh day with the recovery of the dead body of Lashkar-e-Tayeeba (LeT) commander Uzair Khan from inside the Garol forest area of Kokernag in the South Kashmir district of Anantnag on Tuesday.
A massive manhunt was launched by the joint team of security forces in the dense forest area after three senior officers, including Colonel Manpreet Singh, Commanding Officer, 19 Rashtriya Rifles, Major Ashish Dhonchak, and Deputy Superintendent of Jammu & Kashmir Police Humayun Bhat, were martyred in action during an intense firefight with a group of terrorists on September 13.
On Monday, the security forces recovered the body of Sepoy Pardeep Singh, who went missing after the operation was launched.
A total number of four security personnel sacrificed their lives in the Kokernag encounter.
According to police records, Uzair Kham, a resident of Nagam area of Kokernag, was “A Plus” category terrorist and carried a reward of `10 lakh on his head.
He joined the ranks of a pro-Pakistan terrorist outfit in June 2022 after he went missing from his residence in the same month.
Since October 2021, a total number of 31 soldiers, including senior officers have made supreme sacrifices in seven operations.
In contrast, only four terrorists were neutralised in only two out of these seven operations. In five other operations, the search and combing operations were called off after different intervals without any major success.
However, in the Kokernag operation, the Indian Army mobilised massive resources after suffering huge losses to hunt down the terrorists, believed to be hiding inside the natural cave-like structures.
To counter the challenges of tough terrain, the Army authorities also resorted to the use of Heron drones and other surveillance equipment to smoke out the hiding terrorists. To avoid any collateral damage the joint teams relied more on surveillance equipment before zeroing in on the target.
Briefing media persons after the operations were called off on Tuesday, Additional Director General of Police, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar said, “Lashkar-e-Tayeeba (LeT) commander Uzair Khan was among the two terrorists killed in a gunfight in Jammu & Kashmir’s Anantnag district that ended after seven days, on Tuesday.
“Till now, LeT commander Uzair Khan’s body has been recovered. The dead body of another terrorist is visible, but it has not been possible to retrieve it yet,” the ADGP told reporters in Anantnag.
He said the gunfight, which began in the Garol forest area of the south Kashmir district on Wednesday last week, is over, but the search operation will continue. There is a huge area that remains to be searched. There can be a lot of unexploded shells which will be recovered and destroyed. We appeal to the people not to go to the area,” he added.
The ADGP said security forces had reports that two to three terrorists were there. “There is a possibility that the third dead body may be somewhere. It will be known after the search is complete,” Kumar said.
During the last week, the entire Garol forest area was cut off from the district headquarters after the anti-terrorist operations were launched.
Reinforcements were rushed in to plug the possible escape routes of terrorists.
Timeline of Terror attacks on Indian army
October 11, 2021: Five Army soldiers including a JCO were martyred in an encounter with terrorists at Chamrer forests in Surankote tehsil of Poonch district.
October 16, 2021: Four soldiers including another JCO were killed in action with the same group of terrorists at Bhatta Durrian in Mendhar tehsil of Poonch.
August 11, 2022: Five Army jawans were killed and two fidayeens were eliminated during an attack on an Army camp at Pargal in Darhal area of Rajouri district.
January 1, 2023: Seven civilians of the minority community, two of them minors, were killed in firing and IED blast triggered by two foreign terrorists at village Dhangri in Rajouri district.
April 20, 2023: Five Indian soldiers were charred to death after a moving truck was ambushed in the Poonch district
May 5, 2023: Five elite commandos of Para Special forces were ‘killed in action’ by a group of heavily armed terrorists in the thickly forested belt of Kotranka in the frontier district of Rajouri.
August 4, 2023 : 3 soldiers of 34 RR were killed in action in the Kulgam district
September 13, 2023: Three officers and one sepoy killed in action in the Kokernag forest area of Anantnag