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June 4, 1999
Army closing in on Pakistani intruders in Drass
Chindu Sreedharan in Srinagar
Two more officers of the Indian Army have died fighting the Pakistani intruders along the Line of Control in the Kargil sector of Jammu & Kashmir.
Reports reaching Srinagar said Lieutenant Colonel R Vishwanathan was killed in combat in the Drass sub-sector on Thursday while Captain Vikram was killed in artillery shelling from across the border in Kaksar, near Kargil.
Lt Col Vishwanathan is the highest-ranking officer yet to become a casualty in the border war. Earlier, Major Rajesh Singh Adhikari of the mechanised infantry was killed in the Drass sector.
Lt Col Vishwanathan was leading an assault party of about 30 men 4km from the Srinagar-Leh highway towards the LoC when they came under intense fire from automatic weapons from the concealed infiltrators. Besides Lt Col Vishwanathan, a junior commissioned officer and four soldiers were killed in the combat.
The shelling in Kaksar saw another officer, Major Shakhawat, sustaining serious injuries. (It was earlier wrongly reported that he had been killed in the action.)
Assaults and advances, including air strikes, are continuing in the Batalik sector. In Drass, however, fighter planes are going slow as the Indian troops have gained ground and are close to the intruders.
The bodies of all the Indian soldiers killed in Thursday's fighting have been recovered, an army spokesman said.
Besides, the army has recovered the bodies of three Pakistani soldiers from the Batalik sub-sector. All the bodies have been brought to the state capital Srinagar. The bodies of the Pakistanis may be shown to the national and international media on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani army has started shelling more areas near the LoC. One boy and a woman were killed in the shelling in Tangdhar in the Kupwara sector while artillery exchanges are also on in Kanzalwan and Nowgam. Intense shelling of the Srinagar-Leh highway also continues.
But the army has made "significant advances" towards the positions of the infiltrators. As a result, the Indian Air Force has suspended air strikes in the Drass sub-sector because the ground troops are now perilously close to the Pakistani intruders.
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