Five Army personnel were killed and a major was injured on Friday in an explosion triggered by terrorists in the thickly forested Kandi area in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district where an operation was underway to flush out terrorists, officials said.
The operation, still underway, was launched following inputs about the presence of a group of terrorists involved in an ambush on an Army truck in Bhata Dhurian of Poonch district last month, in which five security personnel were killed.
Before Friday’s attack, the twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri have witnessed seven major terrorist incidents since October 2021 in which 29 people, including 22 Army personnel, have been killed.
As the anti-terrorist operation was underway, mobile internet facilities in the Rajouri area have been suspended.
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According to a statement from the Army’s Northern Command in the morning, its personnel have been conducting ”relentless intelligence-based operations to flush out a group of terrorists involved in an ambush on an Army truck in the Tota Gali area of Bhata Dhurian in Jammu region last month”.
”On specific information about the presence of terrorists in the Kandi Forest in the Rajouri Sector, a joint operation was launched on May 3. Around 7.30 am on Friday, a search team established contact with a group of terrorists well entrenched in a cave. The area is thickly vegetated with rocky and steep cliffs.
Officials said additional troops of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Army were inducted into the area to put it in tight cordon so that terrorists do not escape from the spot.
The forces deployed drones and sniffer dogs and troops hit a cave hideout with heavy fire of mortars and grenades, they said.
”The terrorists triggered an explosive device in retaliation,” it said.
In the morning, two Army men belonging to the Special Forces were killed and four, including the major, injured during the operation in Rajouri sector. Later in the day, three died in a hospital in Udhampur.
”There is a likelihood of casualties in the terrorist group and the operation is in progress,” it said.
The slain soldiers were lance naik Ruchin Singh Rawat from Gairsain in Uttarakhand, paratrooper Siddhant Chettri from Darjeeling in West Bengal, naik Arvind Kumar from Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh, havildar Neelam Singh from Jammu and paratrooper Pramod Negi from Sirmaur in Himachal Pradesh.
Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Mukesh Singh rushed to the spot and reviewed the security setup, they said.
The security forces have been engaged in a massive combing operation for the past 15 days in the twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch districts. The operations started after the attack on Army vehicle in Bhatta Dhurian in which five soldiers were killed and another was injured on April 20.
More than 250 people were detained for questioning during combing operations. Six overground workers who extended full support to terrorists were arrested, they said.
The terrorists have adopted a twin strategy of engaging troops or attacking people and then laying improvised explosive devices to trigger blast to target security forces.
This also happened in Dhangri village in Rajouri where terrorists killed seven civilians in twin attacks on January 1 this year.
Terrorists carried out an attack on 11 October 2021 in Surankote, killing five soldiers, followed by the killing of three soldiers and two jawans in Dera ki Gali on October 13 and 15. Two jawans were killed in an IED blast in Kalal in Rajouri in October 30.
On August 11 last year, five soldiers were killed in a fidayeen attack on a military camp in Rajouri.
In the last one-and-a-half years, Poonch and Rajouri districts in Jammu and Kashmir have witnessed more killings of Army personnel than the militancy-hit Kashmir Valley, officials said.