A senior Army officer, who was among the gallantry medal awardees announced on the eve of Republic Day, was killed in a fierce gun battle with militants in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Tuesday.
Two local militants of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) and a policeman were also killed.
Sources told Deccan Herald that Col M N Rai, a resident of Varanasi, was killed in a gunfight when personnel of 42 Rashtriya Rifles and Special Operations Group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Police launched a joint operation in the Handora forest area near Tral, 38 km from here, “following specific information about the presence of militants”.
Col Rai, who was commanding officer of 42 Rashtriya Rifles, was awarded the “Yudh Seva medal” for his bravery while eliminating a group of militants in the Tral area last year.
“As the troops were cordoning the area, the hiding militants fired on the search party. The militants were asked to surrender but they fired on advancing troops in which Col Rai and three policemen were seriously injured. In the retaliatory action by the troops both militants were killed,” sources said.
Col Rai tried to enter the house during the gunfight when militants targeted him and he was critically injured.
“Col Rai went for daredevil action and ran straight into the house where militants were hiding during the gun battle to ensure that they did not escape,” sources added.
Police said the injured security personnel were admitted to 92 Base Camp hospital at the Badami Bagh cantonment in Srinagar where Col Rai and head constable of J&K police Sanjeev Singh died.
Police said the two HuM militants were Adil Khan and Shiraz Dar. Khan had been the district commander of HuM since September 2012. Dar recently joined the outfit and was involved in stealing the rifle of an SOG man from Awantipora camp last year.
Sources told Deccan Herald that Khan, son of a police constable, was the most wanted local militant in south Kashmir. “He was involved in a large number of attacks on security forces besides civilian targets in Pulwama district,” sources said.
The militants were in the village to meet Khan’s family when troops cordoned off the area.
Governor N N Vohra and former chief minister Omar Abdullah conveyed his sympathy to the bereaved families.