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June 24, 1999
Pak Army takes over Skardu, Gilgit
Amberish K Diwanji in New Delhi
The Pakistani Army has taken over the administration of Skardu and Gilgit towns in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Skardu lies just across the Line of Control, opposite Kargil, whereas Gilgit is the largest town in occupied Kashmir, a few miles further away.
"As per our information, the reason for taking over these key towns is because the Pakistani Army was finding it difficult to get support from the people there. Support such as porters, transport and medical facilities for the Pakistani soldiers on the front," Colonel Bikram Singh, spokesman for the Indian Army, said in Delhi today.
Meanwhile, the Indian Army has renamed the Turtuk sub-sector of Batalik as the Hanifuddin sector to honour the martyrs in the Kargil conflict. Captain Hanifuddin was killed on June 7 fighting the intruders.
The army has denied reports of concrete bunkers having been constructed by the enemy high up in the mountains. Newspapers had said the Indian Army, which overran the enemy lines, had found well stocked and armed concrete bunkers.
"The only solid structures we have come across are the sangads, which are fortifications made of loose stones piled atop each other. These sangads take two days to be built and can only provide cover against light gunfire," said Colonel Singh.
He added that on inspecting the sangads and from the evidence available, it appears that the Pakistanis began occupying the mountain heights from February onwards. "Reports stating that the intruders occupied the heights last year are not true. They came in this year and used helicopters to ferry equipment and supplies," he added.
Colonel Singh said that while the army was unaware of when Pakistan first planned the operation to occupy the heights, it was evident that they had gone about it meticulously. "Let us remember that the Pakistani forces were involved in this entire operation," he said.
The spokesman said the army has consolidated its hold on Point 5203. "Right now, we are carrying out probing operations and re-grading the enemy's potential and ability. Our artillery and air strikes continue."
Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force today carried out raids after a gap of five days. "Air strikes are carried out in co-ordination with the army. Whenever the army is very close to the enemy, the strikes are suspended," an IAF officer said.
The army has recovered more weapons and a wireless radio set used by the Northern Light Infantry of Pakistan. Col Singh said the Pakistani side continued with its artillery barrage in the area of conflict as also in Uri, Poonch and Naushera in the Jammu region.
He added that the Indian side has been very open about its casualty figures even though they are high, but Pakistan has not released any figure so far. As of today, the enemy's losses stand at 340 killed. The Indian side has lost 165 men, while 335 have been wounded and nine are missing in action.
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