LeT commander among two militants killed in Kokernag encounter

On the 7th day of a search operation of security forces in the Gadole forest area of Kokernag in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag district, troops recovered the bodies of two militants including a local Lashkar-e-Toiba commander identified as Uzair Khan.

Security forces said two militants including Lashkar commander Uzair Khan have been killed in the seven-day-long operation.

The body of Khan has been recovered and another body of a militant is lying in the forest area. Security forces had information about 2 to 3 terrorists in the area.

‘There is a possibility that the third dead body may be somewhere. It will be known after the search is complete,’ J&K Police said.

Four security men were killed in the initial gunfight with militants in the forest area on Wednesday last and since then they forces have been tracking down the militants.

Drones, quadcopters and helicopters were used to flush out the militants as security forces fired rockets, mortar shells, grenades and ammunition from drones towards the possible militant hideouts in the forested area.

Search operations will continue for any other bodies and the local law enforcement urged locals not to go closer to the encounter site as unexploded grenades or shells will be collected and destroyed.

Charred body recovered near terrorist hideout as op entered day 6

Search operations were underway following an intense week-long gunfight between terrorists and security forces in Kokernag of South Kashmir’s Anantnag district, which lasted for over 100 hours.

The heavily-armed terrorists, believed to be two to three in number hid in tactical locations in the dense and steep forest.

Another soldier was martyred on Friday during the ongoing encounter within the dense forests of Kokernag in Anantnag district, as the confrontation escalated during the ongoing encounter.

The body of the soldier had gone missing earlier. The toll has reached four after three officers were killed in the encounter earlier.

Cave-like Hideouts

Several cave-like hideouts were pinpointed in the forest area wit the use of drones. Footage from the security forces showed a person running for cover after one such hideout was hit by mortar shells.

An Indian Army Colonel, a Major and a police official were martyred in the encounter that broke out on Wednesday.

‘An Indian Army Colonel commanding a Rashtriya Rifles Unit (19 RR) along with a Major have lost their lives in an encounter in Anantnag with terrorists in Kashmir’ Indian Army officials said in a statement.

‘A Jammu and Kashmir Police official also lost his life in the encounter. The Army officers were leading the troops from the front after they had gone to search for terrorists in the area based on specific intelligence,’ they added.

Who were the four brave officers?

Deputy Superintendent Humayun Bhat, Colonel Manpreet Singh and Major Ashish Dhonack lost their lives in the encounter that broke out between security forces and terrorists in Kokernag area of Anantnag district, according to an ANI report.

Deputy Superintendent Humayun Bhat, Colonel Manpreet Singh and Major Ashish Dhonack were martyed in the terrorist attack. Facebook

Colonel Manpreet Singh from Chandigarh and Major Ashish Dhonack from Haryana were the two Army officers that were martyred.

33-year-old Humayun Bhat, a deputy superintendent (Dy SP) with the Jammu and Kashmir Police, was among the three senior security officers killed in the gunfight. 

Humayun joined the police force in 2018 and over his short career had handled several difficult and important operations in J&K, many of them as part of the Special Operations Group exclusively undertaking anti-terror operations.

Sepoy Pradeep Singh had been missing since Wednesday and his body was also recovered on Monday, officials said.

Social Media Reactions

Dy SP Bhat’s last rites were held in Budgam last evening, with people attending in large numbers.

‘Paid tributes to JKP’s Dy SP Humayun Bhat, who laid down his life in an anti-terror operation in Anantnag. I salute the indomitable courage and supreme sacrifice of Col Manpreet Singh & Major Ashish Dhonack. Entire nation stands firmly with their families in this hour of grief,” the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha’s office said in a post on X.

Bhat is survived by his wife and an infant.

A video of Bhat’s father’s farewell to his son evoked strong reactions on social media.

Colonel Manpreet Singh was a second-generation Grewal Army officer who had completed 17 years of service. Col Singh was also decorated with the prestigious Sena Medal for gallantry after he neutralized terrorists in J&K in 2021.

Col Singh spent almost five years with the Rashtriya Rifles battalion, with the latter part of his tenure as Commanding Officer. He was about to complete his tenure in four months.

Col Singh’s wife Jagmeet Grewal is a lecturer in the Haryana education department. He is survived by her and their two children.

How the operation unfolded

The Defence PRO said the Indian Army and Jammu and Kashmir police were tracking the movement of two terrorists since September 7. Preliminary reports had suggested two to three militants were spotted and encircled in Gadool hamlet in the Kokernag area ‘following a tip-off’ by security forces.

‘Troops cordoned the terrorists and heavy firefight ensued on September 12 wherein one terrorist was killed on the same night. Despite bad weather and hostile terrain, the second terrorist was pursued and neutralized on the morning of September 13 after heavy firing throughout the night,’ the PRO statement added.

‘Large quantity of warlike stores have been recovered, including Pakistan marking medicines. An Army dog has also laid down her life,’ the statement added.

One AK-47 rifle, utensils, clothes, and some ammunition were recovered from a nomad hut, which served as the terrorists’ hideout in the Gadole jungles.

‘In solemn tribute to the unwavering valor of Col Manpreet Singh, Major Ashish Dhonak & DSP Humayun Bhat who laid down their lives leading from the front during this ongoing operation. Our forces persist with unwavering resolve as they encircle 2 LET terrorists including Uzair Khan,’ J&K Police said on its official handle on X.

According to sources in the know, one of the terrorists is a Kokernag resident and the other could be a Pakistani national. The two had taken an elevated shelter among fallen trees in the Gadole forested area for tactical advantage.

The terrorists are believed to be from ‘The Resistance Front,’ a Lashkar proxy. Security forces suspect two-three terrorists are hiding in the area, according to an India Today report.

Heron drones and quadcopters have been deployed in the area to carry out surveillance and assist in the search operation, according to officials quoted in the report.

Were the three officers being led into an ambush?

While local media is abuzz with stories about the three officers being led into an ambush by a traitorous source, a top police official dismissed this allegation and confirmed that the source was still in the operation.

All three officers were victims of an AK-47 burst that was fired by the terrorist who had taken them unawares by changing his position close to the CT operatives. All the officers were wearing bullet-proof vests and helmets but got hit at the exposed areas in rapid AK-firing, the official said.

While the brave Commanding Officer got hit in the head, the two other officers bled to death due to constant firing and evacuation from the remote area.

This article has been updated.