The army has launched a major anti-infiltration operation against militants and suspected Pakistan special troops holed up in an area in Keran sector along Line of Control in which five Indian soldiers have been injured.
"We are in total control of the operation which was launched on September 24. The reports of our posts being captured by the infiltrators are absurd," General Officer Commanding of the Army's 15 Corps Lt General Gurmit Singh told reporters in Srinagar on Wednesday.
"From the operation that is going on till now and the strength (of infiltrators) and the multiple points they attempted (to infiltrate), give the indication that definitely there were some special troops. This is quite different from the trend we have seen in the earlier infiltration attempts," he said.
Five soldiers have been injured in the operation that entered the ninth day on Wednesday, Lt Gen Singh said.
"All the injured soldiers have been hospitalised and are stable," he said.
Lt Gen Singh refused give details of the operation, saying it could compromise the effectiveness and strategy used by the army against the infiltrators holed up in the area.
Lt Gen Singh said the operation was started on the basis of specific intelligence inputs about possible infiltration in Keran sector by militants from across the LoC.
He said even on Tuesday there was an attempt by a group of militants to infiltrate the cordoned area. “There was a firing incident today also in the area. The operation is being carried out in calibrated manner to avoid own causalities.”
Although the army commander maintained it will be premature to say whether the Pakistan army was involved in the infiltration of militants, he said there were definite indications that some special troops were part of it.
The army, he said, was prepared to take on this challenge. "This is our role and this is what we are meant for," he said.
Lt Gen Singh said the militants have been cordoned off by the soldiers but the operation was being carried out in a calibrated manner to avoid Indian casualties.
"The operations are deliberate. We are not rushing through as rushing through will mean (the risk of) own casualties," he said.
"I have also observed some of the reports.... It seems to me that some inimical elements, subversive elements have been giving the inputs of this black propaganda," he said, referring to some reports which claimed that Pakistani troops had captured some Indian posts.
Lt Gen Singh said the analysis of this infiltration bid indicated the involvement of Border Action Team, a mixture of Pakistani regulars and militants, in it.
"I can only say, analysing the methodology of this infiltration, it was not a pure infiltration (attempt). It was a BAT-cum-infiltration (bid). The number of militants who attempted this infiltration was rather large. In fact, on Tuesday night 10 to 12 militants tried to sneak into the cordoned off area from across," he said.
He also rubbished media reports that a 70-year-old man was killed in Tangdhar sector.
"The militant was aged between 40 and 45 years. An AK-47 rifle was recovered from him. A detailed search of the area led to the recovery of more arms and ammunition including 12 AK rifles which were made in Pakistan," the Army commander said.
On September 26, Lt Gen Singh had told reporters that 10-12 bodies of militants killed in the operation had been noticed by the troops on the ground.
Asked if any of the bodies had been retrieved so far, he said, "The dead bodies are not important to me. What is important is that the operation is carried out in the way it has been planned."
He said the full details of the operation will be shared only after the army has ensured that all the infiltrators have been neutralised. However, he did not set a time-frame for conclusion of the operation.
In response to a question, Lt Gen Singh said there were no significant ceasefire violations by Pakistani side in the area since the operation was launched.
The commander also dismissed reports which had claimed that the Indian Air Force was assisting the army in the operation. "I find it exceedingly absurd. How can you even imagine that the Air Force will be involved in this? It is a rugged terrain," he said.
Image: Lt Gen Gurmit Singh addressing mediapersons in Srinagar on Wednesday
Photograph: Umar Ganie
With inputs from PTI