4 terrorists, 2 guides facilitated attack; locals spotted movement

Kathua Ambush | Mountain Road Speaks Of Violence That Was And Stiff Resistance By Troops
Kathua Ambush | Mountain Road Speaks Of Violence That Was And Stiff Resistance By Troops

People panicky, want VDGs, SPOs
*Rajnath reviews situation, NIA team visits spot
*Another group trapped in Doda mountains

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, July 9: Lack of adequate communication, connectivity and liaison were among the factors that too contributed to yesterday’s terror attack on two Army trucks at village Badnota in Machedi area of Billawar in Kathua district even as the Union Home Ministry today deputed NIA team to the spot to help police in investigations while Defence Minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the situation post attack with top Defence Ministry and Army officials in New Delhi.

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Reports gathered from officials and eyewitness accounts revealed that couple of youths had observed movement of terrorists on the hills but they were not having numbers of local formations. Moreover, mobile telephone network was extremely poor in the area and they found it difficult to convey the message. Minutes later, they heard sounds of gunshots, which continued for quite some time, and they confined themselves to their houses.
Poor condition of the road was also one of the factors behind the attack in which five Army soldiers were martyred and five others were injured.
Locals, who don’t want to be named, said a tipper ahead of Army truck was moving very slow at kucha and mud-filled road prompting the Army trucks to slow down their speed though their trucks were moving fast even in bad condition of the road stretch. Slow speed of the trucks also gave ample opportunity to the terrorists to lob grenades and rain bullets on the Army vehicles.
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“We rarely saw security officials including police personnel in the area carrying out patrolling though the reports had been suggesting that the terrorists after infiltration from the border were taking mountainous route to reach Basantgarh and then Bhaderwah,” they said, adding the liaison between locals and police could have been very useful in averting the attack.
The locals were worried after the attack saying the police should immediately recruit more VDGs and SPOs in the area as the terrorists can also target them. They recalled that in nineties when the militancy was at its peak and the area was used as an infiltration route, the VDCs had been set up but they were disbanded after the area became militancy free.
Arrival of additional reinforcement of Army and police was also delayed to the spot because of bad condition of the road and adverse weather conditions yesterday which prolonged medical treatment to the injured Army personnel who had to be taken to the Sub District Hospital in Billawar by road. Excessive blood loss could also be the reason behind the loss of some of the lives of the soldiers.
Locals said the Army soldiers despite being seriously injured retaliated very effectively to the terror attack prompting the terrorists to flee from the spot as, otherwise, the casualties could have been more.
As per the inputs, four terrorists and two guides facilitated the terror attack. It, however, will be part of investigations as to whether the terrorists and guides came from Basantgarh or were part of freshly infiltrated group. All of them escaped after the attack.
In New Delhi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh chaired a high-level meeting to review the situation post Kathua terror attack.
Chief of Defence Staff Gen Anil Chauhan, Army chief Gen Upendra Dwivedi and Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane attended the meeting among others.
A strategy to flush out terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir was discussed, the sources said.
A four-member NIA team deputed by the MHA also reached the site of encounter along with police officials to inspect the spot of terror attack. It remained at village Badnota for more than four hours before heading back to Billawar.
However, the case hasn’t been handed over to the NIA but the agency will probe last year’s terrorist attack on an Army convoy at Bhatta Durrian in Poonch district on April 20 that left five Army personnel martyred.
The process to take over the investigation into the matter has started and a case will be registered soon, the officials said.
The probe will ascertain any “common angle” in last year’s attack with the recent terrorist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, the officials said.
Meanwhile, a massive search operation was on today to track down the terrorists behind the deadly attack on the Army patrol party.
Accompanied by ADGP Jammu Anand Jain, DGP RR Swain conducted an aerial survey of the area and reviewed the ongoing operations.
The scope of the search operation has been expanded to encompass large areas in the adjoining districts of Udhampur and Kathua, including Basantgarh, Seoj (a high-altitude area in Udhampur), and the upper reaches of Bani, Daggar, and Kindli in Kathua district.
Special forces of the Indian Army’s ‘Para’ unit have been deployed to conduct surgical operations against the terrorists in specific areas.
Ground search teams are being supported by helicopter and UAV surveillance. Additionally, sniffer dogs and metal detectors are being utilized, with a particular focus on dense forest areas in the region.
The officials said that a joint cordon and search operation, involving the Army, police and CRPF, was launched in Machedi, Badnote, Kindli, and Lohai Malhar areas, with a significant area placed under cordon.
The Badnota, Machedi attack mirrored a similar pattern to the Bhimbher Gali-Mendhar terror incident involving an Army truck on April 20, 2023, where five soldiers lost their lives. The terrorists initiated firing targeting the driver first, firing on the vehicle’s wheels, followed by bursts of gunfire targeting its front and left sides.
Investigations into the weaponry and ammunition used in the attack are currently ongoing but possibly M4 carbines with steel bullets had been used.
In June, security forces had observed movement of a group in the upper reaches of Bani, Daggar, and Kindli areas of Kathua district, leading to subsequent search operations.
Meanwhile, bloodstains on the road and helmets, bullet shells, vehicles with shattered windscreens and flattened tyres… A day after terrorists ambushed an Army patrol, a wooded mountain road on Tuesday told the story of fierce resistance by troops and a gun battle that carried on for several hours.
Recapping what had happened, officials said the soldiers displayed courage and resilience despite facing casualties and engaged them for several hours.
Amid the telltale signs of the violence, were the two vehicles, parked about 300 metres away from each other. Villagers also played a crucial role in the operation, joining rescue efforts to evacuate the casualties.
“A civil bus passed the road about 10 minutes before the attack. We heard a loud explosion and initially took it as a tyre burst but the subsequent heavy firing made us realise that an encounter has started,” Puran Chand Sharma, a villager who runs a shop just a few metres from the scene, said.
The heavy firing continued till 5 pm followed by intermittent firing for another one hour.
“About 12 villagers were at my shop. We hid ourselves inside to avoid getting caught in the crossfire. After the firing stopped, we rushed to help evacuate the casualties,” he said.
Vijay Kumar, another local, said this is the first terror incident in the village since cross-border terrorism broke out in Jammu and Kashmir over three and a half decades ago.
“We have not noticed any movement of terrorists in our area having over 100 families,” he said. In his view, the terrorists might have reached in the bus that had passed by a short while before bullet fire rang out.
“Efforts are on to track down and neutralise the terrorists. The joint search parties have fanned out from all sides and it is a matter of investigation how the terrorists reached the area,” a police official said.
Meanwhile, yet another encounter broke out in Doda district this afternoon.
Security forces tightened their cordon around a forest area in the higher reaches of Doda district following an encounter with hiding terrorists.
Preliminary information revealed that at least two terrorists were hit by the retaliatory action and it is premature to say whether they are dead or injured, a police officer said.
The gunfight between the two sides began in the Ghadi Bhagwah forest, 35 km east of Doda town bordering Kishtwar district, this evening when police assisted by the Army launched a joint search and cordon operation after a tipoff about the presence of terrorists in the area, the officials said.
Heavy firing continued for a couple of hours before the guns fell silent, the police officer said.
He said the search operation was temporarily suspended for the night and will be resumed Wednesday morning to get a clear picture of the situation.
This was the fourth encounter in Doda district since June 12. While three foreign terrorists were killed in a day-long operation in the Gandoh area of the district on June 26, five army personnel and a Special Police Officer were injured in a fierce gunfight in Chattargalla pass on June 12.
Another policeman was injured when terrorists opened fire on a search party in Gandoh the next day.