The police Monday said the gunfight between militants and forces in Pinglina area of the restive Pulwama district was a "challenging operation".
A police official, who wished not to be named, said the operation was "indeed a difficult one for many reasons. Although it was a specific intelligence-based operation, it turned out to be more challenging as militants were well-trained, well-equipped and knew how to manoeuvre and change positions".
Unlike the gun-battles that took place since the forces launched the "operation all out" in May 2017 where militants were killed in "clean operations", the encounter at Pinglina saw more casualties of forces than those of militants, an official said.
Four soldiers including a major-rank officer and a policeman were killed while two army officers and a police officer sustained injuries in the gunfight that broke out late on Sunday evening.
The encounter ended with the killing of three Jaish militants, two foreigners and a local.
Among the slain foreign militants, one was identified by the police as Kamran, the district commander of Jaish for Pulwama "who had taken over the reins of the outfit after the killing of top commanders of the outfit, Mufti Waqas and Noor Muhammad Trali".
A source in the police's security wing said that security agencies—the police, army and the CRPF—were "working on a specific intelligence input about presence of a Jaish group in Pulwama area".
He said on the second day of Lethpora attack on Thursday, at least a dozen villages were searched but no contact was established with the militants. Pinglina was also cordoned off that day, he said.
A security official, who was monitoring the encounter, said though the search was initiated by the forces, the area "being cluttered and a congested one resulted in casualties on the forces' side".
"Given the casualty figure, the encounter was deadliest in the recent times. We have seen the Uri attack wherein at least 18 soldiers died in a pre-dawn suicide attack. Though we can't draw parallels between Uri and today's gunfight, one thing is there that every encounter leaves behind a lesson for the forces".
"We would go for a review and deliberate upon as to what went wrong," the official said.
The Monday's encounter also saw an army brigadier and a captain sustaining bullet injuries and the deputy inspector general of police for south Kashmir range receiving a bullet in his leg.
A CRPF officer disclosed that the role of two foreign militants especially Kamran was being probed "as far as the recent attack on a CRPF convoy at Lethpora in Pulwama is concerned".
"It is not clear whether he was involved in the attack. There are some leads that we will collaborate," he said.
A police spokesman said the role of Kamran and another foreign militant in the Lethpora attack was being probed.
Talking to reporters on the sidelines of wreath-laying ceremony of a slain policeman at district police lines Srinagar, the governor's advisor K Vijay Kumar said: "When senior officers are injured, it means they were leading from the front. It's not absence of tactics or lack of planning. In the world war, this interpretation was made when senior officers were injured. That's a narrow way of looking at things". He was replying to a query as to how senior officers got injured in the gunfight. Replying to a query whether the slain militants were involved in Lethpora convoy attack, the director general of police Dilbag Singh said: "We are verifying all the things. There are fair indications they were one way or the other involved in the attack."