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|May 26, 1999||
'We hope to destroy the insurgents'
Rediff On The NeT Senior Feature Writer Chindu Sreedharan, one of the few journalists still in the Kargil area, reports on the situation:
The shelling continues in Kargil, but no casualties have been reported. The township has not been hit. The roads are deserted. Most of the residents have migrated to villages nearby. The rest stay indoors and in the hundred-odd bunkers.
The army says only about 40 per cent of the population have moved out. The civilian administration, however, put the figure at more than 60 per cent.
The first shell landed in Kargil at 0510 hours today, army officers told Rediff On The NeT. At around 1015 hours, more shells were fired from across the border. The Kharbutang plateau, occupied by the army and the Military Engineering Service area, were the most affected.
Some three-four shells landed in the MES area, while Kharbutang recorded many more. In the 30 minutes I was there, I saw four shells land. By all accounts, today's shelling was less intense than Monday's fusillade.
For the residents of Kargil, there is tension, yes -- but news of the air strikes, or the enormity of that action, has not reached them yet.
Asked whether Pakistan would pound Kargil in retaliation, the additional deputy commissioner of Kargil told Rediff On The NeT, "In the charged circumstances, we cannot say anything. But from tomorrow we expect the intensity of the shelling to increase."
"They need some time to plan. They have been hit. They are not going to keep shut," he replied.
Says Tasgna Akthar Lone, a villager who was unaware of the air strikes, "There is more tension today. Air strikes! That is good! Pakistan is our enemy and we are Indians."
The briefing by Major General V S Budhwar, GOC 3rd Division, had Pakistan shells bursting on Indian hills in the background.
Lieutenant General Krishan Pal, GOC-in-C, 15, Corps, and Lieutenant General H M Khanna, GOC-in-C, Northern Command, had visited Kargil in the morning.
"You are fully aware that largescale infiltration has taken place. It was detected by us early and we were able to stop them and push them back," Major General Budhwar said.
He said the insurgents had moved into areas where surveillance is being maintained by chopper sorties and patrolling.
"It seems to be an operation that has been planned over a period of time, between 3 and 6 months.
"They are suffering plenty of casualties. We hope to ultimately block them off and completely destroy them," the general said.
How long, we asked the general.
"In an operation we cannot lay down a time frame," he said. "Pakistan has been actively supporting them in terms of intelligence, artillery and logistics. The active participation of their army cannot be ruled out."
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