Army major dies in Kashmir gunfight

Srinagar, Nov 9 (IANS) An army major was killed in a long-drawn gunfight between guerrillas and troopers in Jammu and Kashmir Friday.

Police said exchange of heavy fire continued for the fourth day at Saidpora village near Pattan, 45 km from here in Baramulla district of northern Kashmir.

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On Friday morning militants opened heavy fire on the troops who were conducting searches in the village, a senior police officer said. “Major Verinder Singh who received a critical head injury died in hospital,” he added.

The gunfight erupted late Tuesday after troops of 29 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) and the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the state police surrounded a house in the village after receiving specific information and challenged the hiding militants.

“So far we have killed three terrorists in the ongoing operation. Three army men were killed on the first day (Tuesday) while four others were wounded,” said the police officer.

“We have reports that one terrorist is still holed up in the village. Intermittent exchange of fire is continuing.”

In the nearby Sopore town in the same district, security forces are engaged in an overnight gunfight with the guerrillas of Lashkar-e-Taiba, who are holed up in a hotel building.

Police said an SOG cop was seriously wounded during the exchange of fire near the hotel and was taken to hospital.

Paramilitary troopers and SOG surrounded the hotel building Thursday when the guerrillas barged into it, after attacking a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) patrol.

High tension has gripped Sopore, also known as Kashmir’s apple town, and authorities were forced to rush more reinforcements.

“We can hear loud explosions and exchange of fire. Movement in the area is restricted and there is heavy CRPF and police deployment,” a local resident reached by phone said.

Police and CRPF rescued nearly 200 civilians who were trapped in the hotel building and the adjoining shops and houses.