In a typical commando style, three armed militants descended down the wooded mountains and tip-toed towards the Army garrison at Panzgam in Kupwara at 4.30 am on Thursday. When they began cutting the fence, soldiers on duty challenged them. The three militants had not expected this. They fired at the guards and tried to rush towards the living quarters.
Captain Ayush Yadav was woken up by the deafening sound of the gunfire. He sensed something ominous. He threw his blanket away, grabbed his AK 47 and rushed out. The militants were inching towards the living quarters. The young captain charged at the militants and halted the three in their tracks. The young officer was hit with bullets but he held on and didn't allow the militants to proceed.
That gave enough time for the troops to retaliate and pin down the militants. Yadav died but prevented the militants from reaching the sleeping soldiers.
"Captian Yadav was martyred while preventing the militants from reaching the living quarters," said Colonel Surav Joshi after the encounter ended. Two militants and three army personal including Yadav were killed.
"The attack took place at 4.30 am when two to three militants attacked the garrison." Joshi said the militants were detected when they were cutting the fence.
He said the soldiers guarding the sprawling camp fired at the militants and fierce gunfight ensued.
"Taking advantage of the darkness, the militants tried to move towards the living quarters but heavy volume of fire by the quick reaction team (QRT) pinned them down and forced them to run towards the exit.
"Through out the operation, the militants were prevented from reaching the living area by accurate and heavy volume of fire from all directions," Joshi said.
Gunner Rishi Kumar of Field Artillery Regiment was on sentry duty when the fire fight started. He observed the terrorists approach and waited for them to come within close range. He then engaged them and was hit on his head but was saved by bullet proof patka. However, the whiplash of the impact caused him to fall down. He immediately recovered and fired back to kill the two terrorists.
Running out of ammunition he moved out of his bunker and tried to pick the weapon of the slain terrorists to engage the third. The third terrorist fired and injured him thus managing to escape. Rishi Kumar is from Ara, Bihar and has eight years of service.
Dawn was still 90 minutes away when the firefight began. By first light, the fire from the militants had died down.
During the combing operations, the bodies of two militants were recovered. Five soldiers were injured and airlifted to Srinagar Army hospital. But Yadav could not survive and died as gunfire reverberated in the camp.
The Army recovered a huge cache of ammunition and three AK 47 rifles which indicated the presence of a third militants. Joshi said the third militant was injured in the encounter and he escaped. Nine magazines, two radio sets and one smart phone were also recovered from the spot.
"We have launched a search operation in the adjacent villages to look for him," he said.
He said the operation lasted only 35 minutes and the Army succeeded in preventing the militants from attacking the living quarters.
While the firefight was on, residents from several villages assembled close to the garrison and started shouting slogans in favour of the militants. They pelted stones at the troops guarding the garrison. One civilian was killed and three others injured after Army allegedly opened fire on the protesters.
This is the first fidayeen attack this year and the first major attack after the Uri attack in September, 2016. The Uri attack had led Indian forces to conduct surgical strike along the border in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir.