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June 22, 1999

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IAF achieves striking success in Batalik

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Amberish K Diwanji in New Delhi

The Indian Air Force today released pictures of its successful air attacks in the Mantho Dhola region of Batalik sub-sector of Jammu & Kashmir.

The pictures show enemy camps on certain peaks and ridgelines having been destroyed.

"This is one of our very successful strikes," Group Captain D N Ganesh told rediff.com.

Though the IAF does not have figures of the exact number of infiltrators killed, from the pictures it is confident that many lost their lives. More importantly, the intruders have lost another peak.

According to Group Captain Ganesh, to inflict heavier casualties on the enemy, the IAF allowed the Mantho Dhalo camp to grow. "We had seen this camp many days earlier, but decided not to hit it right away," he said.

Encouraged by the IAF ignoring this key peak, more and more intruders began to pitch camp in the region. Soon, the entire area was swarming with the intruders. It was just what the IAF wanted.

"Our plan went off perfectly," the group captain exclaimed. "By building up this encampment, the enemy played into our hands and presented us a wonderful target, which we struck on June 17."

The IAF did not carry out just one or two strikes, but repeatedly strafed the enemy encampment, completely destroying the tents and bunkers.

The fires caused by the air strikes were assisted by strong winds that swept through the enemy camps, leaving nothing but burnt-out equipment and embers.

Group Captain Ganesh did not mention the aircraft used for the strikes, though they are believed to have been MiG fighter-bombers, or the aircraft that took the pictures after the strikes.

While the IAF did not carry out any operations in the Kargil sector today, the army continued its forward movement. Soldiers advanced in the Batalik sub-sector, the area that has seen maximum activity over the past two days, with troops capturing Point 5203, according to army spokesman Colonel Bikram Singh.

In the Drass sub-sector, the colonel said, Indian troops consolidated their position on Point 5140, which was captured on Saturday night.

Casualties continue to mount on both sides. So far India has lost 163 men while 323 have been wounded. The enemy has lost 379 soldiers and hundreds more have been wounded.

Indian troops also exchanged fire with Pakistani troops in the Jammu region. The exchange of artillery fire took place in Keran, Tangdhar, Uri, Poonch, Krishnaghati, Bimbergali, Sunderbani, Palanwala, and Noushera.

Neither the army nor the external affairs ministry was amused by Pakistani army chief General Pervez Musharraf's statement that "hopes of peace are fading" because of the Indian military action.

"We cannot understand what hopes of peace he has after invading our territory," said the external affairs ministry spokesman, Joint Secretary Raminder Singh Jassal. "There is a good hope for peace if the Pakistanis go back to where they came from."

Jassal and Colonel Singh termed Musharraf's statement as "mere rhetoric".

Jassal said that while India is always ready for a dialogue, "the tragedy is that the Pakistani proposals only obfuscate the issue of the armed intrusions".

He said that while the Indian government is pleased with the international appreciation of its difficult position in pushing out the armed intruders, any decision on whether to cross the Line of Control will be guided by its "supreme national interest".

He made this statement in response to Britain's declaration that while it appreciates the restraint shown by India in the current military operations, it might change its stand if Indian forces cross the LoC.

"But it is not for us to speculate on the future course of action vis--vis crossing the LoC," Jassal added.

The Kargil Crisis

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