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May 29, 1999


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Indian troops go on high alert

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The Indian army and air force, with their relentless attacks, had pushed back infiltrators right up to the Line of Control in some places in the Kargil sector while troops were put on high alert following indications that the Pakistan army's defensive formations along the international border had been moved to their operational areas.

Latest intelligence reports said over 300 infiltrators had been killed and 150 injured since the conflict began on May 8.

Air attacks on positions occupied by the infiltrators continued for the fourth day today without any let-up despite the loss of two MiGs and an Mi-17 helicopter.

With ground troops throwing off the intruders from one height after another, their area was rapidly shrinking, Maj Gen J J Singh, additional director general of military operations and air vice marshal S K Malik, additional assistant chief of air staff (operations) said.

''Pakistan has launched this misadventure and we have not fired our last shot'', Gen Singh said, adding that it was only a question of time before the LoC was restored.

In some pockets the infiltrators -- mainly Pakistani army regulars, special security group personnel and Afghan mercenaries-- had been shunted back right up to the LoC and in others they had receded one to two km from the line after their routes of maintenance had been cut off.

''From an initial ingress which could have posed a threat to vital communications in this sector, the intruders have now been confined to restricted areas which are being squeezed further through determined clearing operations supported ably by air strikes and incessant artillery bombardments'', Gen Singh said.

Gen Singh said some additional concentration of troops and guns were being carried out along the Line of Control by Pakistan with major accretions opposite the Kargil sector.

Pakistan was moving additional artillery and infantry units and beefing up air force resources at Skardu. Significant deployments of air defence radars and air defence missile units had been carried out in the Skardu region. Stinger missiles had been deployed in the intruded positions.

''Certain reports indicate that the Pakistani army's defensive formations along the international border have been moved to their operational areas or are being placed on alert. These are probably precautionary defensive measures but we are not taking any chances''.

He said reports that the Pakistani army was trying to push in foreign mercenaries and regular soldiers from other sectors seemed to be correct. Three attacks were launched by Pakistani forces in the Rajouri sector which were repulsed by Indian troops. Three of the attackers were killed and many wounded in these failed attempts.

''Pakistan has also concentrated a number of foreign militants in other areas along the Line of Control in a bid to draw our attention away from the situation in Kargil. A very high state of alert is being maintained by our troops along the LoC to foil any bid'', Gen Singh said.

Gen Singh said the direct involvement of the Pakistani army in the infiltration in the Kargil sector was proved beyond doubt.

The army had found Pakistani army documents and identity cards in the rucksack left behind by a soldier of the 4 Northern Light Infantry. The sepoy's name was Abdul Ayub.

The body of another soldier had been recovered and was being moved to Srinagar and will be handed over to Pakistan, he said.

He claimed at least 15 to 20 bodies of Pakistani soldiers were being brought to Skardu every day. As of May 27, Pakistani army casualties were given out as 90. These reports were borne out by intelligence inputs collected from near Rawalpindi which speak of 125 Pakistani army soldiers having been killed so far in Kargil.

Fresh inputs from highly reliable sources have also detailed the strength of the Pakistani army regular soldiers including special security group personnel in at least four of the intruded positions.

At many places the cohesion of these intruders had been shattered and they were operating in small isolated pockets.

Gen Singh said it was not easy to say how many positions the infiltrators were still holding on to. But even where they were still present, well-armed and with missiles, they were facing serious problems of logistics.

No definite time-frame could be given as to when they could be evicted but the pressure was on. There were a lot constraints under which the Indian armed forces were operating, he added.

Asked whether it was 'near-war situation' he said, ''We face an intrusion which is actively abetted and aided by Pakistani armed forces. These intruders are not native to Jammu and Kashmir. They are coming in a clandestine manner for terrorist acts...The low intensity conflict is being imposed on us''.

AVM Malik said yesterday, in spite of the loss of the helicopter, the positions occupied by the infiltrators were pounded by the air force.

''The proof of the pudding is in what the army is getting a taste of'', he said adding that the air force was using new tactics to eliminate the intruders.

AVM Malik said air raids were carried out this morning and the IAF was maintaining its self-imposed restriction of remaining south of the LoC. The air attacks were on targets that had been well identified, he added.

He said the body of the MiG-21 pilot, Sqn Ldr A Ahuja, was handed over to India in the Kargil sector yesterday. He said the body had bullet wounds indicating he had been killed. A post-mortem of the body would be conducted at Srinagar and it would then be flown to Bhatinda for the funeral.

Meanwhile, it had not been possible, yet, to recover the bodies of the four killed when the Mi-17 helicopter was shot down by a missile yesterday, although the site of the crash had been located.

He said Pakistan had not yet handed over Flt Lt K Nachiketa, who is in their custody. Since there was no war on and the pilot had bailed out of the MiG-27 when it developed trouble on Thursday, Pakistan had no business to hold him in detention, he said.

AVM Malik said a number of the shoulder-fired American Stinger missiles were being used by the infiltrators but most of them were missing the targets.

Asked whether the civilian population had fled from the Kargil sector, Gen Singh said they kept moving to safer places and coming back to their homes.


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