Srinagar, Feb 22:
Militant activity in Jammu and Kashmir has been higher in the beginning of 2014 and 11 terrorists have been killed and 13 apprehended so far this year, the army said here Saturday.
Srinagar-based 15th Corps commander, Lt.Gen.Gurmit Singh said that last year the first terrorist was killed in April, but this year, it happened on Jan 7.
“So far, we have eliminated 24 terrorists of whom 11 have been killed and 13 were apprehended,” he said, noting militant activity in the beginning of this year has been higher in Kashmir as compared to last year.
All the 13 arrested guerrillas are locals, he said.
“The army always gives all (terrorists) the possible chances to surrender. We don’t fire at them till they fire on us,” he said, stressing that the army is committed to ensure human rights while carrying out anti-militancy operations.
The corps commander said with melting of winter snow and opening up of mountain passes, there would be more attempts by the guerrillas to sneak into the Kashmir Valley.
“The army faces multiple challenges confronting the security grid in Kashmir during the current year as there might be increased infiltration attempts in view of the depleting militant leadership and the forthcoming elections, but I am prepared,” he said.
About the forthcoming Lok Sabha and state legislative assembly elections schedule this year, Lt.Gen. Singh said: “We will be very much concerned about providing environmental security for the election process.”
He parried a query whether the withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan would impact the security situation in Kashmir.
“There are regional dynamics of the security situation. The counter-infiltration grid is in place.
“We are ready for it. As security force, I got to be ready for any security challenge. And for that assessment of the threat and preparedness are important dynamics.”
Speaking about last year’s Keran operation which became controversial following varying statements by the defence spokespersons, the corps commander said it was a large scale infiltration attempt from multiple points by the militants which was foiled successfully.
“Eight militants were killed and 59 weapons were recovered. There was no fatality on own side, but six brave soldiers were injured during the operation,” he said.
On the controversy over the invitation for his press conference which mentioned that the traditional Kashmiri overcoat, the ‘pheran’, should not be worn, Lt.Gen. Singh said it was inadvertent and sought an apology.
“I would like to personally say sorry for the ‘Pheran’ thing. It was inadvertent, but nevertheless a mistake,” he said.
Local journalists had taken exception to the invitation by the army Friday which said they should not come wearing the ‘Pheran’ for the media interaction. The ‘guideline’ was later termed “inadvertent and unintended” and withdrawn.