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May 19, 1999
Army brings in choppers to flush out infiltrators
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
Defence authorities here admitted Wednesday that the major offensive launched by the army was continuing in Kargil and Drass sectors and disclosed that in all 12 army jawans were killed and 47 injured during the past 11 days.
In the fighting so far the Indian Army killed 21 infiltrators while 78 were critically wounded.
Addressing a crowded press conference the Corps Commander Kashmir, Lt Gen Krishan Pal, said that the primary aim of the infiltrators was "to revive the defeated proxy war and internationalise the situation by building up war hysteria."
Gen Krishan Pal said "this is a local situation and we will deal it as such. There is no possibility of its escalation into war. We are aware of the Pakistani ISI's designs and will not fall in to their trap."
He said that infiltrators backed by the Pakistani army "have been blocked, contained and cut off and efforts are on to completely encircle them."
The army commander, who spoke to the press for the first time after a complete news blackout for the last nine days, said that due to the difficult terrain operations are time consuming and added "we are tackling them piecemeal."
He however hastened to add that "in the next few days the situation will be restored to our advantage." Commenting on the latest situation at Kargil and Drass, the Corps Commander said "we have made significant gains as of this morning and our troops have been able to position themselves in various advantageous positions which should result in more successes in next few days."
When told that the defence minister had catagorically stated that the operation at Kargil will be over in 48 hours, Gen Pal said "I have not seen that report."
He said that foreign mercenaries who have been encircled by the army are "well trained and on a suicidal mission. They are holed up. But they are not leaving the positions where they have settled." He added "some Pakistani regulars have intermingled with them."
He said there were 300 to 400 of these militants at Drass and Kargil trapped in the upper reaches and exclaimed, "we detected them well in time and our response was swift and had they not been stopped by us they would have entered the valley.''
The Corps Commander admitted that some units of the army engaged in counter-insurgency operations had been withdrawn and rushed ro Drass and Kargil but added that "other units have replaced them at Ganderbal and Safapora areas."
He said that small helicopters were carrying Wide Area Surveillance Operations at Drass and Kargil and denied the army had used helicopter gunships to target the infiltrators.
''We are using helicopters fitted with small weapons to hit the infiltrators." The present trouble at Kargil and Drass errupted after a "probing patrol" was attacked resulting in some casualties.
Gen Pal said that efforts of the infiltrators to cut off the Srinagar-Leh highway has been foiled and military convoys were now plying normally. Civilian traffic will also start plying on the highway in the next few days after the upper surface of the road improves.
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