5 Soldiers Killed During Rajouri Combing Operation

Search Operation Underway, Mobile Internet Facilities Suspended

Jammu- Five army personnel from elite 9 Para Special Forces lost their lives while one major ranked officer got injured during the ongoing anti-terror operation launched in Kesari Hill area of Kandi forests in Rajouri district.

The operation, still underway, was launched in the woods of Rajouri-Poonch bely following inputs about the presence of a group of militants involved in an ambush on an Army truck in Bhata Dhurian of Poonch district on April 20, in which five security personnel were killed.

Media reports said that on a specific input, a joint Cordon and Search Operation (CASO) was launched in Kesari Hill area adjoining Kandi – Khadyoon village road, falling under Kandi Police Station, around 35 kilometers far from district headquarters Rajouri. These reports quoting police said that during the CASO, teams established contact with terrorists ensuing a heavy exchange of fire.

“Five army personnel from elite Para Special Force got killed while one Major ranked officer is injured and under treatment at Command Hospital Udhampur,” an army officer confirmed, adding, “Two paratroopers suffered fatal casualties after terrorists triggered an explosive device in retaliation, while three succumbed to injuries later during treatment”.

The People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF), a shadow organisation of the Jaish-e-Mohammed outfit, has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack.

Before Friday’s attack, the twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri have witnessed seven major militancy incidents since October 2021 in which 29 people, including 22 Army personnel, have been killed.

As the operation was underway, mobile internet facilities in the Rajouri area were suspended.

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 militants 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 militants 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 militants were arrested, they said.

The militants 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 militants killed seven civilians in twin attacks on January 1 this year.

Militants 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.

Army Commander Reviews Ops Preparedness

Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General Upendra Dwivedi visited troops at remote operating bases (RoBs) in Rajouri and Kishtwar districts of Jammu and Kashmir and reviewed the security situation and operational preparedness of troops, officials said on Friday.

This is the second visit of Lt Gen Dwivedi to the Rajouri sector to review the operational preparedness of troops after the April 20 militant attack in which five soldiers were killed in Bhatta Dhurian in Poonch.

Earlier, Lt Gen Dwivedi had visited Rajouri on April 26 and the attack site at Bhatta Dhurian on April 22.

Apart from reviewing operational preparedness on Thursday, he reviewed the security situation and commended the troops for their sustained efforts in dominating the area, they said.

The search operation to track down militants responsible for killings has been going on for the past 15th day.

More than 230 people were picked up for questioning in connection with the militant attack with most of them being let off, they said.

A six-person module has been busted which gave full support to militants involved in the killings of five jawans, the officials said, adding they have been arrested.  (With Inputs from PTI)

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