3 Pak militants strike at Jhajjar Kotli, appear in a house; searches on

Truck used by militants for travel (left) and troops during searches in Jhajjar Kotli area on Wednesday. -Excelsior/Rakesh
Truck used by militants for travel (left) and troops during searches in Jhajjar Kotli area on Wednesday. -Excelsior/Rakesh

Student among 2 arrested for shifting ultras to Valley
Militants picked up from Hiranagar in truck
Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Sept 12: Three militants, believed to be Pakistanis affiliated with Jaish-e-Mohammed, and equipped with assault rifles and ammunition, were intercepted by police at Jhajjar Kotli, about 37 kilometers from here on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway this morning, but they managed to escape by opening firing on the cops after boarding off from the truck in which they were heading towards Kashmir from Jammu and disappeared in the surrounding areas.
Late tonight, family members of Isher Dass Khajuria, whose residence was located close to Jhajjar Kotli, told police that the militants came to their house around 10 pm, changed clothes, took biscuits and water and left ahead. They were equipped with their pithoos containing weapons and explosives.
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Army pressed helicopters and drones into service during the day and continued massive search operations along with CRPF and police in the areas falling along the National Highway. However, no contact could be established with the militants. The searches were, however, on.
Police have, meanwhile, arrested a BSc Nursing student and a truck driver, who had come here from Kashmir on September 9 to take the militants to the Valley from Hiranagar along the International Border in Kathua district. They have been identified as Mohammad Iqbal son of Abdul Khaliq R/o Pakharpora, Budgam, a BSc Nursing student and Riaz Ahmad son of Ghulam Ahmad R/o Hajin, Pulwama, driver-cum-owner of truck No. 1476 JK03F in which the militants were being taken to the Valley. Brother of Riaz was also a militant and had been killed in an encounter.
Sources told the Excelsior that the militants of Jaish-e-Mohammed had tasked Iqbal to go to Jammu to bring three Pakistani militants safely to the Valley. Iqbal and another militant hired Riaz Mohammad, owner-cum-driver of the truck by offering him Rs 50,000 for transporting the militants from Dayala Chak to Kashmir. Riaz was paid Rs 20,000 cash and was promised remaining Rs 30,000 after bringing the militants to the Valley.
Iqbal and Riaz reached Jammu in the truck on September 9 via Mughal road and parked the truck at Narwal after lifting ‘Plaster of Paris’ from Bari Brahamana for a Kashmir based firm. They picked up the militants from Mandir-Masjid Point in Hiranagar tehsil along Jammu-Pathankot National Highway in Kathua district and started moving towards Kashmir this morning.
“It was being ascertained as to whether the militants had crossed the International Border to reach Hiranagar,” sources said, adding the militants were wearing “jungle boots”. However, the part of infiltration from the International Border in Hiranagar sector or surrounding areas is being investigated,” sources said, adding Riaz and Iqbal have confirmed that the militants were Pakistanis and affiliated with the JeM outfit.
Police team from Soketar naka of Jammu Rural observed suspicious movement inside the truck outside Sai Cafeteria at Jhajjar Kotli around 7.50 am when Riaz and Iqbal were taking breakfast outside and had ordered packing of food for three others.
“The militants were sitting inside and Riaz and Iqbal were getting food packed for them,” sources said, adding that when police started checking of the truck, they opened the door and one of the hiding militants fired on the police personnel. All three militants jumped out of the truck and started running towards isolated area.
Enroute, they saw Sericulture Department Guard Ganesh Dass walking on the road and fired shots presuming him as police constable as he was wearing `khaki’ uniform. Soon thereafter, they disappeared in the surrounding areas. Ganesh Dass approached Jhajjar Kotli police station for help but they didn’t come out. Later, Ganesh was shifted to the Government Medical College, Jammu and was operated upon. His condition is stable.
While fleeing from the truck, a bag of the militants fell down from which police recovered one AK rifle, one pistol, six grenades, some ammunition and medicines. However, the militants were still in possession of two AK rifles, one pistol and explosive devices.
Immediately after the firing incident, senior police officers including IGP Jammu, Dr SD Singh Jamwal, DIG Jammu Bhim Sen Tooty, SSP Jammu Vivek Gupta, SP Rural Dushyant Sharma and SDPO Nagrota Mohan Lal rushed to the spot. Army was called out and they launched joint search operations immediately with CRPF, police and Quick Reaction Teams (QRTs).
National Conference MLA from Nagrota, Devender Singh Rana also reached the spot to assess the situation. He called upon the people to be vigilant and alert. He hoped that the militants will be eliminated or nabbed soon. He added that terrorism is biggest challenge to the civilized world and need to be fought unitedly and condemned in strongest words.
Army pressed helicopters and drones into service to trace the militants. Massive searches continued in several areas surrounding the National Highway but no contact was established with the militants till late tonight.
Two mobile telephones which were being used by Riaz and Iqbal have been seized by police. They were in touch with their handlers in Kashmir through the two mobile telephones, sources said, adding the mobile phones were being de-coded.
The militants were young in the age group of 20-22 and were well equipped with arms, ammunition and explosives. One of them was wearing Pathan dress (Salwar-Kameez) while two others were wearing pant shirts.
In the morning, authorities restricted vehicular movement along National Highway in view of the search operation. Traffic was gradually released. However, educational institutions within the vicinity of Jhajjar Kotli were closed down and management was asked to safely send the students to their homes. Night traffic on Nagrota-Jhajjar Kotli road has been restricted and diverted.