5 Army soldiers martyred in single operation; troops launch massive searches for militants

Troops near the site of encounter at Chamrer in Poonch district on Monday. (Inset) Five martyr soldiers. —Excelsior/Rahi Kapoor
Troops near the site of encounter at Chamrer in Poonch district on Monday. (Inset) Five martyr soldiers. —Excelsior/Rahi Kapoor

Presence of 4 militants suspected in DKG forests on Rajouri-Poonch border
Enforcement rushed, ultras had laid trap for patrol
Martyrs include 3 from Punjab; one each of UP, Kerala

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Oct 11: For the first time in past many years, five Army soldiers including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO), were martyred in a single brief encounter with the militants at village Chamrer in Surankote tehsil of Poonch district while Army, Police and other security forces have intensified searches along jungle area of Dera Ki Gali (DKG) on the border of Rajouri-Poonch districts to hunt down the killers.
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Except fidayeen attacks and BAT actions on the Line of Control (LoC), this is for the first time that five Army jawans have lost their lives in a single encounter with the militants in Poonch district during the past several years.
Martyrdom of five Army soldiers indicated that number of militants hiding in the forest could be between three to four. However, it couldn’t be ascertained immediately as to whether this was a freshly infiltrated group or was already hiding in the forest for past sometime. On the Line of Control (LoC) in Rajouri and Poonch districts, there has been no major infiltration attempt during the last few days.
Sources told the Excelsior that Army launched search operation at village Chamrer in Surankote in Poonch district, bordering Panghai forests in Thannamandi area of Rajouri district early this morning as there had been very specific inputs about presence of militants in the forests of Dera Ki Gali which divides the two border districts.
The militants had laid ambush for the troops as they were anticipating the search operations and were the first to open fire after observing movement of the Army patrol.
All five Army soldiers, who were in the frontline of the patrol, were seriously injured in the gun battle and succumbed to their injuries on being shifted to nearby medical facility.
Army, CRPF and Police immediately rushed their enforcement to Dera Ki Gali forests and launched searches for the militants.
“Twice, a contact with the militants was established at Panghai in Thannamandi, about two kilometers from Chamrer village of Surankote but both the times the militants managed to slip away during heavy exchange of firing,” sources said, adding that the militants will not be able to escape for a long time.
“We have cordoned off the forest area from different sides. The militants will try to move towards Shopian through Pir Panjal mountains but we are determined to get them,” the officials said, adding number of the militants could be between three to four.
Army jawans, who attained martyrdom in the encounter, have been identified as JCO Naib Subdedar Jaswinder Singh, a resident of ManaTalwandi in Kapurthala district, Naik Mandeep Singh of village Chalha Sirha in Gurdaspur district, Sepoy Gajjan Singh, a resident of Panchranda Jhaj in Ropar district, all from neighbouring Punjab State, Sepoy Saraj Singh of Akhtyarpur Bhabhi in Shahjahanpur district of Uttar Pradesh and Sepoy Vaisakh H of Odanavatta, Kudavattoor in Kollam district of Kerala.
Their bodies have been shifted to hospital and will be sent to their homes with full military honours after floral tributes.
“The nation will always remain indebted to our bravehearts for their supreme sacrifice and devotion to duty,” a Defence spokesman said.
On August 6, 2013, five Army jawans of 21 Bihar Regiment for martyred in an attack by the Border Action Team (BAT) of Pakistan at Chakkan-Da-Bagh in Poonch district. However, the action took place on the LoC.
While Army has suffered casualties in fidayeen attacks in their camps in different parts of Jammu, sources said this was for the first time in past many years when five soldiers lost their lives in a single operation in the border district of Poonch.
“This is a big setback,” sources said but added that the martyrdom of the soldiers will be revenged with the killing of all militants.
As Dera Ki Gali forests are quite far from the LoC, sources ruled out that the militants could be part of freshly infiltrated group. Moreover, they said, there has been no visible infiltration attempt on the LoC in twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch during last few days.
“It appeared that the militants had been camping in the forests for past quite some time and might have set up their hideout in the forests,” sources said but added that the things would be clear only when the militants are killed and troops destroy their hideout.
An official said there were reports about presence of three to four militants in Rajouri and Poonch districts and this group might be the part of that.
In August this year, Army had killed three militants at Panghai in Thannamandi area of Rajouri district. A JCO had attained martyrdom in the attack. One of the slain militants was from Shopian while two others were Pakistanis. They had infiltrated few days prior to their killings.
There have been number of encounters in Rajouri and Poonch districts this year but troops had succeeded in neutralizing the militants mostly on the LoC or close to the site of infiltration.
Three militants were killed in Sunderbani and one in Nowshera sectors of Rajouri district. In Sunderbani, two soldiers were killed while in Nowshera one jawan was injured. Prior to that, one militant was killed in Kalakote.
However, according to sources, most of the infiltration attempts by the militants on the LoC in Rajouri and Poonch districts are aimed at reaching South Kashmir via Pir Panjal mountains or Mughal Road.

Major attacks on Army in Jammu
*Feb 10, 2018: A group of heavily-armed militants struck at sprawling Sunjuwan Military Camp on the outskirts of Jammu killing 10 Army personnel. All three militants were eliminated.
November 29, 2016: 7 Army soldiers including two officers were martyred in fidayeen attack at Nagrota camp. All three militants were neutralized.
*November 27, 2014: Three Army personnel were among 10 persons killed at border village of Kathar in Arnia sector of Jammu district, located close to the International Border.
*September 26, 2013: Four Army personnel and an equal number of policemen besides two civilians were killed in twin suicide attacks by the militants at Samba and Kathua districts. Lieutenant Colonel Bikramjeet Singh was among the martyrs. The attackers were gunned down.
*August 6, 2013: Five Army soldiers were martyred in BAT action at Chakkan-Da-Bagh in Poonch.
*July 22, 2003: Eight security personnel including a Brigadier lost their lives in the fidayeen attack in Akhnoor camp. The militants were liquidated.
*May 14, 2002: 36 persons including jawans and their family members were killed in fidayeen attack at Kaluchak in Jammu district.