"The operation against militants in Manigah forest area of Kupwara district is still on," a police officer told reporters here. "We have reports that a group of three to four heavily armed militants is still hiding in the forest," he said.

He stated some houses in this forest area were emptied to ensure the safety of the civilians. Despite confirming several times during the last 16 days that contact had been established with the hiding guerrillas, the security forces have not been able to successfully end the operation.

Colonel Santosh Mahadik was killed during this operation when he was leading his troops from the front against the guerrillas. Lt Colonel SK Natt, second in command of a Territorial Army battalion, was injured during the operation.

Three other security men -- two Territorial Army troopers and one personnel of the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the state police-- have also been injured so far in this extended operation.

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