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June 3, 1999
'We need 10 soldiers to kill one intruder'
Mukhtar Ahmad in Drass
The Indian Army has said that the Indian Air Force aerial attacks were now being carried out in certain hand-picked areas along the Line of Control following the forward movement of ground troops.
A senior army officer told Rediff On The Net, "This has been done so that the aerial attacks might not cause casualties among our own troops." The army is now engaged in 'hand-to-hand fight' with Pakistan-backed infiltrators.
Though ground troops have been 'making significant progress' after the air strikes, he said the operations ''would take time. It can be one week, one month or even more than that as the terrain is difficult and we have to face hostile weather.''
He said that since the situation in the area was ''war-like, the army had moved in everything to fight and finish the intruders. It is not an intrusion. It is an invasion and that is why you see so much deployment.''
''We will not spare them. We will wipe them out even if it takes us two to three months.''
He admitted that militants had ''tremendous firepower. They were armed with rockets, assault rifles and they were well entrenched in rock-solid bunkers.''
He said that the army had to arrange for special clothing, food and equipment for the troops to enable them to operate in the hostile conditions.
''It may be a low-cost war for them. But it is a high-cost one for us,'' he said. ''To eliminate one militant in those ridges, we need 10 soldiers who have to encircle the intruder and then kill him... That is why I say we may suffer casualties."
He admitted that "they are battle-hardened Afghans who are ready to sacrifice their lives. They have no employment in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the Inter-Services Intelligence has promised to pay them $ 18,000 each. We recently intercepted some messages wherein the Afghans were asking the Pakistanis to pay the money to their families immediately."
The officer also admitted that the number of militants was much more than what the defence authorities have been saying all along.
"Only in my Drass area there are 400 to 500 militants while in nearby Mushko valley there are 200 to 300 of them."
"We have inflicted heavy casualties on the militants and their bodies are lying buried in the snow. We will recover those bodies one day and show them to you."
He said his "troops have encircled the militants in the Drass sector and their supply lines have been cut off. Now they are desperate and we will eliminate them one by one."
The Pakistan artillery has been targeting the local brigade headquarters almost everyday, damaging a barrack there. "The brigade headquarters is not safe. You see one shell landed in the headquarters a few minutes back but luckily there were no casualties."
However, in view of the continued shelling, the officer said 'we are going underground'.
Scores of underground bunkers have been dug up by the troops while others are being covered with bags of sand.
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