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Terrorists kill 2 non-Kashmiris in J&K, Army toll in Jammu gunfight rises to 9

The Times of India logo The Times of India 17-10-2021 M Saleem Pandit and Sanjay Khajuria
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SRINAGAR/ JAMMU: Suspected terrorists on Saturday shot dead two non-Kashmiris — a snack vendor from Bihar in downtown Srinagar and a carpenter from UP in south Kashmir's Pulwama — to break a nine-day lull in targeted attacks on civilians in J&K.

The twin terror strikes, which swelled the list of civilians killed in the Valley this month to nine in two weeks, coincided with the Army retrieving the bodies of junior commissioned officer Ajay Singh Rautela and soldier Harendra Singh from a densely forested area of Poonch-Rajouri where an encounter with terrorists has been raging for six days.

As the number of Army casualties in the Jammu operation mounted to nine, security forces fighting terrorists in the Valley claimed a major success in gunning down Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Umer Mushtaq Khanday, counted among the 10 most-wanted terrorists in J&K, along with an aide at Drangal Pampore in Pulwama.

In Srinagar's Eidgah locality, 30-year-old pani puri vendor Arbind Kumar Sah was shot by terrorists from point-blank range around 7pm, the police said. Another pani puri vendor from Bihar, Virendra Paswan, had been killed by the Pakistan-backed outfit TRF at Lal Bazar in the old city on October 5.

Terrorists struck next around 40km from Srinagar, fatally injuring migrant carpenter Sagir Ahmed in the township of Litter in Pulwama. Sagir, who used to work in a saw mill in the area, died in hospital. The victims in the string of targeted civilian killings since October 2 include prominent Kashmiri Pandit businessman Makhan Lal Bindroo, Kashmiri Sikh school principal Supinder Kour and her Kashmiri Pandit colleague Deepak Chand. According to police data, terrorists have killed 28 civilians this year.

NC vice-president Omar Abdullah tweeted that the two civilian killings during the day were "a grim reminder of the precarious security situation in Kashmir these days".

"Perpetrators of these heinous attacks will be punished soon. We have intensified our efforts to crush militants and their ecosystem. They will have to pay a very heavy price for killing innocent civilians. I urge people to speak in one voice and join hands in the fight against militancy," lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha said.

The Pampore encounter in which Lashkar commander Khanday was killed along with aide Shahid Khurshid came a day after two terrorists responsible for killing a government employee and a police officer were shot dead in gunfights with security forces in Pulwama and Srinagar respectively. Khanday, the big catch, had killed police constables Mohammad Yousuf and Suhail Ahmad in Srinagar’s Baghat on February 19, besides masterminding a several other terror attacks, IGP (Kashmir range) Vijay Kumar said.

READ ALSO: J&K: 2 terrorists suspected in cops' killings gunned down in Pampore encounter

Amid the spate of civilian killings, reminiscent of the terror trigger behind the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in the 1990s, security forces have gunned down 13 terrorists in nine cordon-and-search operations across the Valley over the past two weeks.

The Poonch offensive to smoke out suspected terrorists from Pakistan has, however, been hampered by the terrain allowing the infiltrators to retreat deeper into the dense forest. "On October 14, after a fierce firefight with terrorists, communication with Subedar Ajay Singh (Rautela) and Naik Harendra Singh was disrupted. Their bodies were found today Nin the Nar Khas forest of Mendhar," Jammu-based defence spokesperson Lt Col Devender Anand said.

Subedar Ajay, the second JCO to be killed in action during the ongoing operation, and Naik Ajay were from Tehri and Lansdowne districts of Uttarakhand respectively. On Thursday, two critically injured soldiers — Riflemen Vikram Singh Negi and Yogambar Singh — died after "displaying exemplary courage, devotion and making the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty", an Army statement said.

Five Army personnel — Naib Subedar Jaswinder Singh, Naik Mandeep Singh and sepoys Gajjan Singh, Saraj Singh and Vaisakh H — had died fighting the terrorists within the first few hours of the encounter breaking at Surankote in the frontier district of Poonch last Monday.

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