SRINAGAR: Stepping up their offensive against government forces amid intensifying counter-insurgency operations, militants today attacked an Army vehicle in the restive south Kashmir’s Shopian district. A journalist suffered pellet injuries as forces cracked down on protesters in the area.

Police sources and witnesses said a mobile bunker of the army’s 23 Para unit came under gunfire in Meemandar village of Shopian at around 1:45 pm. “The Army soldiers retaliated, forcing the militants to retreat from the area,” police sources said.

Locals said a large contingent of police and paramilitary forces has arrived in the area and a ‘cordon and search operation’ is underway to nab the attackers. No militant outfit has claimed responsibility for the attack so far.

A videojournalist, Aijaz Ahmed Dar, who works with New Delhi-based TV channel and had gone to cover the attack, suffered pellet injuries as clashes broke out against the seaches. Witnesses said forces used teargas and pellets to disperse the protesters. “He has suffered pellet injuries in neck and head,” sources said.

The attack in Shopian comes a day after three BSF soldiers were wounded in a militant attack in Pantha Chowk area on the outskirts of the capital Srinagar city. In the northern part of the city yesterday, three suspected militants were arrested after a brief shootout with forces.

Security situation has worsened lately in Kashmir with forces intensifying operations against militants and the local militant recruitment likely to set new record this year, belying the BJP-led Centre’s claims that situation is “improving” in the Valley.

According to a latest assessment of J&K Police, over 160 youth have already already joined militants this year with the figure likely to cross 200 mark by the end of 2018, making it one of the worst years in the troubled history of Kashmir.

Even as searches are underway in Shopian, an encounter has broken out in the adjoining Tral village where a group of two to three militants have been trapped in a residential house, “They have been cornered from all sides and heavy exchange of gunfire is going on,” a senior police officer said.

Earlier this week, an intelligence officer of J&K police was shot dead by suspected militants in Pulwama’s Wahibugh village. Sub-inspector Imtiyaz Mir, who was posted with the intelligence unit of J&K police, was dragged out of his car and shot from point blank range by unknown gunmen.

A PDP worker was also shot dead by unknown gunmen in Srinagar city on the same day.

The fresh killings have taken place amid reports that snipers may have carried out at least three attacks in different parts of the Valley, resulting in the killing of an Army soldier and two central paramilitary troopers. The development has rattled the security grid in the troubled state.

Although the security agencies have recovered dozens of rifles used in sniping from militants in the past three decades of turmoil, security agencies say it is for the first time that militants are using night vision technology to carry out attacks.

Additional director general of J&K Police, Munir Khan, recently told reports that the light from mobile phone splashed on the face of one of the slain personnel, making him a target in the sniper attack.

Unknown police and army sources have been quoted that two ‘buddy’ groups of two militants each have infiltrated into this part of Kashmir in September who are behind the sniper attacks on security forces.

(Representational Image by BASIT ZARGAR)