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Militants avenge Sarp Vinash

Arun Sharma

Posted: Jun 27, 2004 at 0247 hrs IST

Hours before the foreign secretary level talks between India and Pakistan at Delhi, militants stepped up violence killing 12 Gujjars including women and children, in their first major strike after Operation Sarp Vinash in Hill Kaka area of Poonch district on Saturday morning. Eight others, mostly women and children, were injured.

The massacre which took place at Teli Katha — about three km from village Murah — has taken the lid off the ongoing cross-border infiltration. Referring to the spurt in infiltration attempts by militants during this month, a Defence spokesman here said that security forces have so far killed 38 militants and apprehended two others.

Governor Lt Gen (retd) S.K. Sinha and Chief Minister Mufti Md Sayeed condemned the killings, describing it as most barbaric.

Sources said that the deceased included seven members of the Village Defence Committee (VDC) and five children. However, the troops had already advised local villagers not to stay at Teli Katha at night. But with the passage of time, the villagers had become complacent.

They had a reason to be so, sources said while referring to a number of successful operations carried out by VDC members against militants during the last year. Only a week ago, they had forced a local Hizbul commander Taj Hussain alias Pehalwan to shift from the area to Peer Marg.

Though no outfit has so far claimed responsibility for the killings, sources suspected it to be Pehalwan’s handiwork. They pointed out that the victims had taken his family hostage a fortnight ago. And, to get them freed, Pehalwan had even killed SPO Mushtaq on the day of his marriage in the area. However, the family was rescued from villagers’ captivity only on the intervention of local police about a week ago.

Giving details, sources said the victims including VDC members were caught unaware as a strong group of 18-20 militants attacked two huts early this morning. While 10 people died on the spot, two others succumbed to injuries later on. The militants fled when some surviving VDC members retaliated. The injured include two VDC members, four women and two children.

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