Four Army personnel including a Major was killed in an encounter between security forces and terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district in an overnight operation on Monday. According the news agency ANI, the army personnel; belonged to 55 Rashtriya Rifles. The army men killed in today’s encounter have been identified as Major VS Dhoundiyal, Havaldar Sheo Ram, Sepoy Ajay Kumar and Sepoy Hari Singh. Apart from military personnel, one civilian was reportedly killed during the gun battle. There are reports that internet services have been suspended in and around Pinglan. The forces had got specific tip-off about 2-3 terrorists. The site of ongoing gun battle is barely 10 km away from the February 14 blast on the National Highway 1A, which claimed lives of 40 CRPF personnel.
It was a joint operation launched by the Indian Army, Jammu and Kashmir Police and the CRPF. The encounter comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that Indian armed forces have been given ‘free hand’ to decimate the terrorists in the aftermath of Pulwama blast. India has been saying the non-state actors in Pakistan such as Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar are sending sponsoring terror activities targeting India, especially Jammu and Kashmir.
Amid tension between India and Pakistan after Pulwama attack, latest reports suggest that Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar planned the Pulwama attack and gave instructions from Rawalpindi hospital bed. The report by Times of India states that Azhar kept the plan hidden from United Jihad Council and secretly deputed his nephews to carry out the attack. In an audio tape, Azhar exhorted the Jaish men to avenge the killing of his nephew Usman, who was gunned down by Indian security forces in 2017. Previous reports had pointed out that Azhar had sent an Afghan war veteran – Abdul Ghazi – to Jammu and Kashmir to avenge the killings.
Pakistan has been maintaining that it has nothing to do with Pulwama attack. Hours after the blast, Islamabad issued a midnight statement condemning the attack. However, Islamabad rejected that it was in any way involved in the attack. "We strongly reject any insinuation by elements in the Indian government and media circles that seek to link the attack to the State of Pakistan without investigations," the Foreign Office added.