India surgical strikes: Eyewitnesses provide graphic accounts of Indian Army's operations against militants in Pak-administered Kashmir

The Express also reported that the eyewitness accounts it had collated suggested the number of jihadists killed?in the strikes was far lower than the 38-50 figure that the Indian side has given out. (Image source: Wikipedia) Photograph:( Getty )

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Oct 05, 2016, 04.35 AM (IST)

The Indian Express newspaper reported Wednesday that it had spoken to eyewitness across the Line of Control -- the line dividing India and Pakistan -- and that the witnesses had provided it graphic accounts of the Indian army's surgical strikes last week on "jihadists' staging posts" in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The eyewitnesses told the Indian Express "how bodies of those killed in clashes before dawn on September 29 were loaded onto trucks for secret burials. The eyewitnesses also described brief but intense fire engagements that destroyed makeshift buildings that housed jihadists before they left for the last stage of their journeys across the LoC". 

The Express reported that the eyewitnesses' reports corroborate India's claims that it had carried out the surgical strikes -- a claim that is denied by Pakistan. Pakistan has so far said there were no strikes on its territory, and that only its forward military posts had come under small arms and mortar fire. (Pakistan does however at this point have an Indian soldier in its custody who the Indian army says "inadvertently crossed the LoC".) 

The eyewitness accounts, the Express reported, also provide, for the first time, details about some of the locations targeted in the Indian army's special forces' operation. Both the Indian and Pakistani governments have given out no information on those so far. The Express also reported that the eyewitness accounts it had collated suggested the number of jihadists killed in the strikes was far lower than the 38-50 figure that the Indian side has given out. (Addressing a press conference the morning after the strikes, the Indian director general of military operations had said the strikes had inflicted "significant casualties". He had not given an exact number but unnamed sources had told a number of news organisations (including WION) that between 38 to 50 jihadists had been killed in the strikes.) 

An answer India 'would never forget'

The Indian Express spoke to five eyewitnesses, getting in touch with them via their families living on the Indian side of the LoC. Questions were sent to them "using a commercially available encyrpted chat system". The identities of the eyewitnesses have been withheld for the safety of their relatives on the Indian side of the LoC, the Express said. 

A total of five eyewitnesses were spoken to. The Express reported that the most detailed account of the fighting came from two eyewitnesses who visited Dudhnial, a small hamlet some 4 km across the LoC. The Express said "local residents told one of the eyewitnesses that loud explosions... were heard from across the Al-Haawi bridge late in the night, along with intense small-arms fire." 

The eyewitnesses told the Express that locals did not come out to see what was happening, "so did not see Indian soldiers" but they gathered from members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (which has been designated a terror outfit by a number of countries) that they had been attacked. 

The eyewitnesses added that "five, perhaps six, bodies were loaded on to a truck early next morning, and possibly transported to the nearest major Lashkar camp at Chalhana".

The Express reported another eyewitness as saying that Friday prayers at a mosque in Chalhana ended with a cleric vowing to avenge the deaths of the men killed the previous day. "The Lashkar men gathered there were blaming the Pak army for failing to defend the border" and "saying they would soon give India an answer it would never forget". 

'Unsafe, one step back'

The Indian Express also reported that it had accessed nine intelligence alerts issued the week before the surgical strikes. It said the alerts "flagged only small groups of five to 10 infiltrators biding their time at launch pads". 

"They were basically sitting around thinking it was business as usual," the Express quoted an official familiar with the intelligence as saying. "Many of them would have died crossing the LoC anyway, when they hit our defences but this (the strikes) has made them feel unsafe one step back in their journeys."