|Early Times Report|
Srinagar, Oct 13: Over the last 15 days, several hundred soldiers, assisted by para commandos, have been combing the forests of Gangabal, a mountainous terrain bordering Gurez sector on the Line of Control (LoC), searching for militants who may have escaped a gunfight on September 27.
Sources said that on September 27, Army men spotted a group of militants walking along the Gangabal lake. When challenged, the militants, believed to be part of a group that infiltrated the Valley through Gurez sector, opened fire. In the encounter that followed, a militant was killed while at least two of his associates managed to escape. Two days later, the Army spotted another militant, who was killed in a brief shootout.
A week after the encounter, police said, a family from Warpora village in Sopore claimed that one of the militants killed in the encounter was their son Qamar-ud-din War. According to police records, War crossed the LoC on a Pakistani passport more than a year ago.
"The family approached us and when we showed them pictures of the body, they recognised him," said a police official in Kangan in Ganderbal district. "We are waiting for the DNA report before we go ahead."
Every summer, hundreds of trekkers take a high mountainous mule track that goes through thick forests and barren plains to reach Gangabal, a famous fresh water lake in the foothills of Harmukh, the mountains that separate Gurez from Ganderbal. Every summer, the Army sets up a temporary operation base on the route used by trekkers and Bakerwals who move with their sheep. It was here, near the lake, that the militants were spotted.
"Though it is close to the Line of Control (LoC), the area has been calm for long because it's a difficult terrain and militants usually avoid it. There has been no encounter in this area between militants and the Army at least in the last two decades," said a senior police official.
With Kashmir on the edge since August 5, when the special status to Jammu and Kashmir was scrapped, the security forces didn't bring down the bodies of the militants from the mountains and instead buried them there. A team of doctors and paramedics were taken from Kangan Hospital to the encounter spot to conduct the autopsy on the bodies.
"One day late last month, policemen came to the hospital and asked for a doctor. They told us about the encounter and that they can't bring the militant bodies to the hospital fearing protests and that the autopsy would have to be done at Wangath (a village 10 kilometers from Kangan)," said an official at the Kangan hospital. "We sent a doctor along with four paramedics, hoping they would return in a few hours. But there was no news about them for three days".
As the families of the doctors and paramedics came searching for them, the hospital staff sat on a protest inside the hospital, seeking to know the whereabouts of their colleagues. The doctors and paramedics returned after three days.
The hospital official said the team from Kangan Hospital was taken, by foot, to the shootout site, a trek of more than seven hours. "They (team) were wearing summer clothes and at Naranag (the last motorable point), the Army gave us jackets and boots and asked us to trek," said one of the officials. "It was snowing at Gangabal. One of our colleagues couldn't trek and vomited on way. But he was forced to reach the site".
The team of doctors was also accompanied by a posse of policemen and a group of around 20 villagers, mostly horsemen, from Naranag. "When we reached there, we saw a body lying on the ground," said Ishfaq Ahmad, a villager. "We were asked to did up a grave and bury him. We did that."