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June 20, 1999
Indian troops recapture strategic Tololing ridgeline
After 21 days of intense fighting, the Indian Army achieved its most significant success till date by clearing the vital Tololing ridgeline in overnight operations even as the Group of Eight vindicated New Delhi's position on Pakistan's armed intrusion into the Kargil sector and called upon Islamabad to respect the Line of Control.
India urged Pakistan to heed the Cologne appeal of the G-8 and undo its intrusion even as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in Dhaka, rejected any suggestion for direct talks with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharief or any third-party mediation to resolve the crisis.
Troops cleared the ridgeline after capturing Point 5140, at a height of 17,000 feet, in the last 24 hours, army spokesman Col Bikram Singh told reporters in New Delhi.
Though the ground troops are now well entrenched on this strategic feature, the highest on the Tololing ridge, they are still waging a pitched battle with the retreating Pakistani soldiers and Afghan mercenaries who are engaging the position with artillery and mortar fire.
Tololing, in Drass sub-sector of Kargil, was won by Indian troops on May 29. Another feature to its north, Point 4590, was recaptured on June 13. With Point 5140 also being cleared, the entire ridgeline is now back in Indian control.
The victory at Point 5140 is vital because it eliminates the threat to the Srinagar-Leh national highway from enemy fire.
The task was accomplished by battalions of the Garhwal Rifles, Jammu and Kashmir Rifles and the Naga Regiment.
Three soldiers were killed in the battle for Point 5140, taking the toll of Indian soldiers to 144. Besides, 258 soldiers have been wounded, nine of them last night.
Asked if the entire highway is now free from enemy fire, Col Singh said there are still some patches left. But earlier, the Pakistani Army had complete domination over the highway, bombarding it with mortars.
Point 5140 was held by more than 100 Pakistani soldiers of the Northern Light Infantry and therefore necessitated the simultaneous launch of attacks along multiple approaches. "The degree of difficulty involved in executing such offensive manoeuvres can be seen from the fact that consequent to the capture of Tololing ridge on May 29, it has taken almost 21 days to clear the ridgeline."
Col Singh said a large number of casualties had been inflicted on the enemy, which the troops are still assessing. As per last count, 313 Pakistani soldiers had been killed in the Kargil sector.
He said mopping-up operations are continuing near Point 5140 which is about 800 metres from the LoC as the crow flies.
Meanwhile, Indian troops recovered yet another pay book of a Pakistani soldier, Sepoy Abdul Rauf of the 5 NLI Battalion, from the Batalik sub-sector.
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