Kargil Conflict News Updates - May 1999

India has moved heavy weapons to Pakistani border

SRINAGAR, May 15 (AFP) - India has moved heavy weapons to Pakistan's borders in Kashmir amid reports that Pakistani troops captured a frontier village in the Himalayan zone, officials said on Saturday. Indian defence sources here said heavy artillery pieces have been deployed at the border of the Indian-administered zone of Kashmir to counter further shelling from Pakistan. The deployment came amid reports in a local newspaper on Saturday that Pakistani troops Friday captured a village after bombarding the frontier town of Drass, some 160 kilometres (100 miles) southwest of Srinagar.  There was no independent confirmation of the latest cross-border attack from either the Indians or the Pakistanis, but Friday night's shelling in Drass as intense. Some 40 shells pounded snow-covered Drass and adjoining areas before Pakistani troops took control of the village located on a line of control which divides the two zones of Kashmir.  Some 10,000 people fled their homes in Drass after the shelling stopped late Friday evening, the English-language newspaper said. Indian forces have launched a "massive retaliatory attack" on Pakistani positions, and have been seen sending troops to Drass by parachutes in a bid to retake the village, it added. Drass is located in Kashmir's mountainous border district of Kargil, which is frequently targeted by Pakistani gunners. "Kargill has turned into a battlefield due to the heavy shelling by Pakistani troops in last few days," an Indian official said of a renewed spell of cross-border artillery duels in the region which started on May 7.  Pakistan, earlier Saturday said its armed forces had inflicted "many casualties" on the Indian army in six days of artillery duels. "The Indians suffered many casualties while there was no loss of life on our side," an official told AFP in Islamabad.  The duels continued amid a news blackout on the number of casualties on the Indian side.

India launches major operation in valley

16 May 1999, SRINAGAR:  Thousands of Indian troops on Sunday launched a major offensive against militants in occupied Kashmir's Kargil sector, officials said. Military sources in Srinagar said infantry reinforcements moved into the mountains of Kargil, where 10 soldiers and 15 militants have been killed in skirmishes over the past week. Kargil is 240 kilometres southwest of Srinagar.  Dozens of helicopter sorties over Kargil were reported on Sunday. Newspapers in occupied Kashmir reported Indian combat jets over the region.  "Dozens of Islamic militants in these forward posts have been holed up and their supplies have been cut, and very soon they will be killed," a senior military source said in Srinagar.  Officials said an unspecified number of guerillas, including "fighters from Afghanistan's Taliban militia" had entered occupied Kashmir under the "cover of week-long shelling by Pakistani troops".  The Tribune newspaper alleged at least 100 heavily-armed guerillas from Pakistan were currently in Kargil.  The Pakistan and Indian armies are locked in a fierce artillery duel in Kargil, forcing some 10,000 inhabitants to move out of artillery range, officials said on Sunday.  A police officer said they were exchanging heavy artillery, missile and rockets along the Line of Control (LoC).  A Kargil resident reached by telephone reported continuing deafening blasts and smoke billowing along several mountains.  The defence source said Pakistani gunners were trying to target helicopter gunships moving into the forward area. Local newspapers said at least one Indian helicopter may have been hit.  The week-long duels have continued amid a news blackout on the number of Indian casualties. Newspapers speak of between 25 and 50 casualties on both sides, but Indian officials have refused to comment.

Pak Army captures seven posts and a village in Kargil Sector

17 May 1999, NEW DELHI: Pakistan has captured seven more Indian posts in the Kargil Sector of Indian-occupied Jammu & Kashmir, with the shelling and firing between Indian and Pakistani troops entering seventh day on Saturday, 17 May 1999. Reports said that Pakistani troops have also captured a village after bombarding the frontier town of Drass, some 160 kilometres southwest of Srinagar. Sources in the Indian Defence Ministry in New Delhi said; "at least a dozen unguarded dominating positions described as posts of the Indian Army were taken over by the Pakistani troops backed by heavy artillery fire in the eastern areas of Batalik Range near Drass during the past few days." Indian Defence authorities here confirmed that intense fighting between the Indian and Pakistani troops has left 23 persons dead including seven Indian army men, one civilian and 15 armed freedom fighters since Sunday morning. The recovery of some bodies in these areas which have been witness to bloody conflict between the two sides was not ruled out.  Pakistani troops have cut off the Indian Armed Forces supplyline from Jammu-Kargil Highway to Siachen after taking the control of important passes in Kargil Sector. The official sources in New Delhi said that the Indian Army has launched the biggest ever combing operation in Kargil villages after completely taking over the 450-Kms long strategic Srinagar Leh road 205 kms north-east of Kashmir Valley. Series of convoys, some of them, carrying arms and ammunition besides troops and supplies were seen moving towards Kargil. The troops since Friday got engaged in Drass also, the world's coldest township. Highly placed sources in New Delhi said that Pakistanis have captured one of the village near the Line of Control (LoC) while shells continued to land in the border township of Kargil after intervals, breaking the grim silence of the ghost town.  The coldest town of Drass where temperature dips to 40 degrees centigrade below freezing point in winter turned real hot at midnight when troops exchanged shells near the sleepy town. This is the first time since 1947 that Drass has come under artillery fire. The firing and shelling was said to be so severe that people took it for Doomsday.  According to Indian officials the coldest desert habitat of the entire Ladakh region, is facing two types of attacks - one by the Pakistan Rangers and the other from the "militants" who have already infiltrated. Drass, it may be recalled here, is connected to the Baltistan periphery besides Kishanganga area of Gurez and there is belief that the Kashmiri Mujahideen are in control of both the tracks. Around 10,000 denizens of Drass town and its adjoining villages of Trungan, Baris, Goshan Bambath have fled from the area in panic. They have taken shelter under the sky on banks of river Mushku.  Heavy firing in Drass was going on Saturday evening and Indian troops have reportedly launched a full scale war to re-capture the village. The reinforcement has been sent to the area to counter Pakistani attack. Sources said that helicopters were seen air-dropping the army troops near town to strengthen their troops. On the other hand shelling in Kargil town continued. The remaining people who are in the town have been asked to remain confined to the under ground bunkers. Sources said that at least two shells fell just outside the Kargil's Army helipad. However, there were no reports of any casualties or damage it.  They further said that Pakistani troops targeted Iqbal bridge which is just outside Kargil town on Srinagar-Kargil national highway. The war is said to be full scale and casualties on the Indian side are said to be higher.

Pakistan confirms gains in Kargil

17 May 1999  ISLAMABAD (NNI): Confirming gains at the Kargil sector, Siachen, Pakistan Sunday said that the United Nations Military Observer Group (UNMOGIP) has been informed about the continued cease-fire violation by the Indian Army along with the Line of Control (LoC).  The UNMOGIP has been also informed about the enemy's heavy arms deployment at the LoC, a highly placed defence source told NNI. "Heavy arms deployment could not demoralize Pakistan Army and we are fully prepared and equipped to thwart any aggression at the LoC and Siachen."  Indian troops after having defeated at Kargil sector where Pakistan Army took over five very important Indian posts with a radius of more than 28 km, have opened fire at almost all the sectors of LoC including Neelam and Jhelum Valley, Ponch, Uri, Tithwal and Mendar sectors. The gain of Pakistan Army at Siachen has disconnected communication system of the Indian troops at the world's highest battlefield with their Brigade Headquarters at Kargil Cantonment.  "Sunday (today) firing from across the LoC has killed one and injured two other civilians at Athmuqam, at Uri sector," the source said. The Indian Army in its usual cowardice move has been targeting the civilian population along with the LoC at Azad Kashmir.  Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz yesterday (Saturday) said that Pakistan would take up the cease-fire violation issue with India formally. Talking to newsmen at Lahore airport on his return from Singapore, the minister said that Pakistani High Commissioner in New Delhi had already taken up the issue with the Indian External Affairs Ministry. "The latest Indian firing is against the spirit of the Lahore Declaration," he said.  The latest violation of cease-fire was started by the Indian troops on May 11and has continued near Kargil, a border town in the mountainous Ladakh region at Siachen. The Indian Army is moving heavy arms to get back its five posts from Pakistani soldiers in the area.  The Indian troops, however after the gains of Pakistan Army at the Kargil sector have been left with no choice but aerial droop of their troops as the road from Kargil Cantonment has been blocked by Pakistani troops after the latest gains there.  

Pak Forces continue to advance in Kargil

18 May 1999, NEW DELHI: Pakistan continued to occupy the 20 strategic posts it wrested from the Indian Army, even as fierce gun fighting was going on in and around Kargil town and Drass region north-east of Kashmir Valley for the ninth consecutive day. Pakistani troops in the meanwhile have repulsed a fresh attack in which India has to suffer a heavy loss as its five army personnel including a Captain were killed during the attack. On the other hand only two Pak Army Jawans were reportedly injured. No contact has so far been established between Pakistani and Indian commanders and it is feared that if situation remained the same for a few more days it may turn into an open war between the two arch rivals. India has for the first time pressed satellite into service to get the actual location of "Mujahideen" occupying higher areas.  Sources in India's Defence Ministry here admitted that more than 10 Army personnel have died in the clashes, but they claimed that 15 guerillas have also lost their lives in the heavy firing. Police in Srinagar confirmed the death toll to 45. The people fleeing from the area have, however, reported more than 100 casualities. The encounters between Mujahideen and the Indian Army is said to be in progress at four places falling within 30 square kilometres area. India on Monday claimed to have achieved a "major breakthrough" in one of its biggest ever operations in held Kashmir, with "forcing the Pakistan based infiltrators in Kargil and Drass to vacate a ridge line". An Army spokesman said in New Delhi that "heavy casualities" were inflicted on the "infiltrators" adding that there were "approximately" 250 infiltrators in Batalik sector of Kargil and 100 in nearby Drass area.  According to a spokesman "Army convoys along the Zojila pass were moving on smoothly after the "successful operation". There was no confirmation to this claim from independent sources. Notwithstanding the government claim, road communication from Drass onwards to Kargil continued to be cut off following heavy shelling coupled with heavy firing by the sneakers, who are said to have occupied some vintage points enroute.  The Indian Army's surface contact with Siachen has been consequently cut off. Sources here said that Pakistan continued to have an upper hand in the undeclared war that has been going on in Kargil sector for almost a week now. Reports said that India has for the first time pressed satellite imagery into service to get the actual positions of 300 Mujahideen occupying the higher positions in the mountains. According to sources the satellite images that have reached to Army commanders in the area have shown pictures of the cordoned area and have confirmed that around 300 Mujahideen divided in six groups are hiding in the area. The reports also said the Indian Army's and Air Force's reconnaissance helicopters had failed in ascertaining the number, location and identification of the militants because of "technical matters which are the line of demarcation between the low intensity warfare and a full-fledged war". There are two-pronged dangers in the mission, it said, "should the helicopters soar high, they can be grounded by the troops and should they keep low they could be targeted by the infiltrators", it added.  The Srinagar Kargil road remained busy for the third consecutive day with the army convoys moving towards Kargil. For the last two days convoys carrying heavy machinery and guns were plying the road round the clock and on Monday hundreds of civil trucks were seen taking soldiers. Army aircraft were said to be hovering over Kargil and Drass towns but so far no aerial action has been initiated by the Army authorities.