Pakistani plotter among 7 killed; top Army, police officers injured (Fourth Lead)

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Srinagar, Feb 18 (IANS) A Pakistani JeM terrorist who plotted the suicide bombing on a CRPF convoy and an Indian Major were among seven people killed in fighting between security forces and militants that also left a senior police officer and two Army officers injured in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir, authorities said on Monday.

In the biggest crackdown after the February 14 attack by a suicide bomber killed 49 CRPF troopers in Pulwama district, the security forces ringed a militant hideout in Pinglena village, just 10 km from the terror attack site, triggering a gun battle overnight Sunday which continued intermittently till Monday evening.

A Major and three soldiers besides a civilian were killed in the initial burst of gunfire by the militants. The Army, the Special Operations Group of the police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) fought back, killing two militants of the Pakistan-backed Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), one of them a Pakistani identified as Kamran.

The soldiers who died were identified as Major Vibhuti Shankar Dhoundiyal, Hawaldar Sheo Ram and Sepoys Hari Singh and Ajay Kumar. The second slain militant was identified as Bilal Ahmed Naik, a Kashmiri.

The security forces recovered the bodies of the militants and were carrying out searches in the area when some hidden militants suddenly opened fire, injuring Deputy Inspector General of Police Amit Kumar, a Brigadier, a Lt Colonel and two soldiers.

All of them were rushed to the 92 Base Hospital of the Army where Kumar was said to be out of danger, police said.

The Pakistani terrorist reportedly masterminded the February 14 attack on the CRPF, inflicting the worst loss suffered by security forces at one go since militancy erupted in the state in 1989.

Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said: “One of the two slain JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammed) terrorists was a top commander and belonged to Pakistan.” The civilian who died was identified as Mushtaq Ahmad.

As the fighting raged, civilians poured out of their homes in nearby areas and pelted stones at the security personnel in a bid to help the militants escape.

The security forces fired tear gas to disperse the crowds.

“Citizens are requested not to venture inside the encounter zone since it is a prohibited zone and can prove dangerous due to stray explosive materials,” an official said.

“People are requested to cooperate with police till the area is completely sanitized and cleared of all the explosive materials if any.”

–IANS

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