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July 8, 1999
Fighting gets bloodier in Drass, Batalik
George Iype in New Delhi
Notwithstanding Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief's declaration that the intruders in the Kargil sector will withdraw soon, the battle on the Line of Control has escalated in the last 48 hours with India inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy.
In one of the fiercest encounters yet, the Indian army captured two key posts in the Batalik sub-sector and evicted the infiltrators from a hilltop in Drass.
Killed in the operations were 92 Pakistani soldiers, taking their total casualty figures to 634.
On the Indian side, 38 soldiers were killed in the last 48 hours, taking the toll since Operation Vijay began seven weeks ago to 321.
According to the army's spokesperson, despite the international pressure on Pakistan to withdraw its troops from the Indian side of the LoC, the battle in Drass has intensified as "the enemy is showing a renewed resolve to fight".
"The enemy is holding on and showing stiff resistance and launching counter attacks because of either new reinforcements or the deployment of fresh forces," he said.
"There is still heavy resistance from the enemy in the Drass sector and it is not a cakewalk for us," he said. In Batalik, however, the morale of the Pakistanis is "very low", he added.
Army officers said Sharief's commitment to the United States to withdraw his troops "has not made the slightest change on the ground".
"But we are in the process of clearing two major ridges and the enemy camps have been pushed back to 3 to 4 kilometres from the LoC," the spokesperson said.
In Batalik, in an exceptionally well-conceived and executed operation, while the 11 Gorkha Rifles captured Point 5287, the 1 Bihar Regiment captured Point 4927. These two units had earlier cleared Point 4268, Jubar Hill and Khalubar, providing a suitable launch pad for the operations north of Batalik.
Fourteen enemy soldiers killed in the encounters in Batalik have been identified as belonging to the 4, 5 and 8 Northern Light Infantry battalions of the Pakistan army.
In the Drass sub-sector, the Sikh Regiment successfully evicted Pakistani soldiers from two hillocks known as Helmet and India Gate on the Tiger Hills. While 17 Pakistanis were killed in the operation, 13 Indian soldiers, including three junior commissioned officers, died fighting.
In another operation, the Naga Regiment captured North Bump in Drass in the face of heavy odds, killing 15 Pakistani soldiers, among them an officer, Captain Imtiaz of 69 Field Regiment.
On the Indian side, Captain Prem Raj of the Regiment of Artillery, who was the forward observation officer with the Naga Regiment, and 10 other soldiers were killed.
But the biggest enemy casualties in the sub-sector came when troops of the Jat Regiment and Jammu and Kashmir Rifles repulsed counterattacks by Pakistani soldiers. While 46 Pakistani regulars were killed, 11 Indian soldiers, including two officers -- Captain Vikram Batra and Captain Anuj Nayyar -- lost their lives.
On Wednesday night, the Indian Air Force carried out precision strikes on an enemy supply camp some 2.5 km west of Tiger Hill. The same target had been pounded by the IAF earlier too.
An IAF spokesperson said the supply camp, where some new tents had come up for reinforcements, was destroyed. Regular reconnaissance and air defence missions are now being carried out in the Drass and Batalik sub-sectors.
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