Srinagar: Tragedy struck the Indian army on New Year when militants killed two soldiers during a cordon and search operation near the Line of Control (LoC) in Nowshera sector of Rajauri district in Jammu and Kashmir.

The incident occurred when the army launched an operation after receiving a tip-off about the presence of militants in Nowshera area. Troops immediately cordoned off the entire area to flush out militants. However, the attackers ambushed the search party, killing two of the soldiers. “Two Indian army soldiers died during the cordon-and-search operation in Nowshera sector,” said Lieutenant Colonel Devender Anand, defence spokesman at Jammu.

Reinforcements immediately rushed to the spot to augment the forces on the ground. Security forces have launched massive searches in a vast area to flush out the militants. Forests and thick vegetation surrounds the area, providing apt cover for the militants. Moreover, inclement weather and fog are also hampering the operation, sources said. “The operation is still in progress, and we are awaiting further details,” said Lieutenant Colonel Anand.

It was not immediately known whether militants who attacked the army had recently infiltrated. It was the first anti-militancy operation launched by the security forces in 2020. The operation was launched on the day when SMS services were restored in Jammu and Kashmir for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370.

Last year, there was 30 per cent dip in militancy-related incidents with infiltration recording a sharp decrease compared to 2018. “In 2018, 143 militants managed to infiltrate, while in 2019 only 130 crossed the border. There has also been a decline in local militant recruitment. In 2019, 139 locals joined militant ranks compared to 218 in 2018. Of the 139 militants, only 83 are active while 39 have been neutralised, arrested or surrendered,” said Dilbag Singh, Director-General of Police of Jammu and Kashmir.

With internet continued to remain shut, the new-age militancy, which had given sleepless nights to security forces, have also shown a downhill trend last year. “In 2018, there were 300 active militants in Jammu and Kashmir, but the number fell to 250 in 2019. Of these militants, 100 are foreigners. The figures do not remain static,” said Singh.

The Director-General of Police said the police and security forces killed more than 160 militants in different operations in 2019. “There was zero collateral damage in all these operations,” he added.

Ishfaq Ul Hassan

An accredited journalist with 22 years of professional experience, Ishfaq-Ul-Hassan has worked as a reporter based in Kashmir for two decades. He has covered various beats including militancy, politics, defence, minorities, social issues, religious groups and women issues in Kashmir. He had previously worked as Special Correspondent in Jammu and Kashmir for DNA (Daily News and Analysis) Newspaper for 13 years. Ishfaq is also associated with the New Delhi- based television company `Asia Pacific Communication Associates’ which produced the famous series “Subah-Bakhar-Kashmir” for satellite Kashmir channel of Doordarshan. In 2004, he was awarded the Charkha-Sanjoy Ghosh Fellowship for Peace and Development for his research on families divided across the LOC in Kashmir.

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