Srinagar, Mar 22 : All the five suspected Lashker-e-Toiba terrorists killed in the 48-hour long Kupwara encounter in north Kashmir were foreigners, the police said today even as the security forces launched a search operation in a dense forest area to locate a missing Army jawan.
Apart from the five terrorists, the fierce gun-battle which ended yesterday also claimed the lives of three Army jawans and two policemen.
An Army official said a search operation was on as the security forces were looking for an Army jawan reported missing since yesterday.
According to police, the encounter broke out in the Halmatpora area, at least 8 kms from the Line of Control (LoC), after a police party intercepted a group of militants.
A joint team of the Kupwara police along with companies of the Army, the Territorial Army (TA) and the CRPF were engaged in the operation which began Tuesday morning.
According to sources, the group of militants sneaked in nearly 8 kms across the Line of Control (LoC) after crossing two ridges of the Shamsabari mountain range.
The militants had met their “reception party” (overground workers and militants already present in the Valley) after crossing the LoC and were proceeding towards Kupwara town when they were spotted by police personnel, officials said.
The militants, who were hiding inside a mosque, started running towards the forest, but not before four of them were killed by the security forces on Tuesday. The fifth militant, who hid at a height and was firing on the approaching security forces, was killed last evening.
A police spokesman said in the encounter, five militants were neutralised.
All are believed to be foreign terrorists and part of a group that had freshly infiltrated the LoC, he added.
In the encounter, two policemen Deepak Thusoo and SPO Mohd Yousuf, three Army personnel Sepoy Ashraf Rather of 160 TA, Zoravar Singh of 160 TA and Naik Ranjeet Khalkho of 5, Bihar lost their lives, the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, a wreath laying ceremony was held for Thusoo at the District Police lines here where IGP Kashmir S P Pani led the security forces in paying tributes to their slain colleague .
Talking to reporters, Pani said the operation was in concluding stages as search operations were in progress.
“Five militants killed are all foreigners. The evidence we have recovered from the scene suggest that they were from Lashkar-e-Toiba,” Pani said. (Agencies)