Army Major, 4 soldiers and 8 ultras among 13 killed in J

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Srinagar, Nov 9 (UNI) Major Virender Singh, three soldiers and five militants were killed in about 72-hour-long fierce gun-battle at Pattan in north Kashmir while elsewhere in the state a jawan and a three militants, including a top commander, were killed and hideout was busted during the past 24 hours.

Brigadier K A Mathana, addressing a press conference in an Army camp at Pattan this afternoon after declaring the three-day-long encounter over, said the encounter ensued after a joint search party of Special Operation Group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir police and Army was attacked by the militants, hiding in some houses on November 7.

Reinforcement was rushed and the area was sealed from all sides to foil any attempt by the militants to escape, he said adding that on the same night three militants were killed. It was difficult to identify two of them who were burnt after the house, which was used by them as hideout, was gutted.

Brig Mathana said on the next morning, one more militants was killed by the troops.

Today fifth militant was killed when he came out from a house firing indiscriminately, causing injuries to Major Singh, who was leading the troops from the front. He was immediately shifted to base hospital where he died.

Three other soldiers also laid down their lives in the encounter.

Official sources said more than a dozen houses were damaged in the encounter.

This was the first major encounter in the Kashmir valley after emergency was imposed in Pakistan.

About the operation, he said it prolonged because there were large number of civlians present in the nearby houses.

''We had to rescue all the civilians before going all out against the holed up militants, he said adding that a number of civilians, including an engineer and few small children were rescued from the ''danger zone'' during the encounter by the security forces after they risked their lives.

Brig Mathana said militants were often shifting from one house to another during the encounter.

He said most probably the militants were foreigners, belonging to Pakistan based Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT).

Four AK rifles (one damaged), two pistols (one damaged) and other arms and ammunition were recovered from the slain militants.

The officer thanked the local population for extending full cooperation to the troops during the operation.

He said the entire area was properly searched and declared safe this afternoon.

However, people took to streets and blocked the Srinagar- Baramulla road for hours in protest against the incident.

The demonstrators raised anti security forces slogans and alleged that security forces looted valuables from their houses and later blasted them.

One of the two fidayeen (members of suicide squad) holed up in a hotel at Sopore in the Baramulla district, since last evening has been killed.

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