The Border Security Force on Thursday said it was not privy to any “specific” intelligence input about the >militant strike in Udhampur on a bus ferrying 44 unarmed personnel that had got “isolated” from a convoy with the lone armed soldier on board staving off the attackers who tried to enter the vehicle.
BSF chief Devendra K. Pathak, who travelled to the ambush site on Wednesday after the attack, said the area on Jammu-Srinagar highway was considered “relatively safe” as there had not been an attack like this in the last two decades.
He said the lone armed trooper inside the bus, >constable Rocky (25), retaliated very bravely and effectively to stop the militants from entering the bus and saved the other men.
“There was no specific input (indicating the attack). There has been no incident in this area for about 20 years but that does not mean that something will not happen in the future. But, relatively this area was considered safe and we did an effective retaliation,” the BSF director-general said while interacting with journalists in New Delhi.
He praised the gallant action of Rocky who gave the supreme sacrifice to save 44 unarmed BSF men present inside the bus who were either going on leave or joining back on duty.
The DG said the attack occurred when the convoy of over a dozen vehicles was moving from their transit camp in Jammu to Srinagar and the dark-green BSF bus that came under attack, got “isolated” from other vehicles.
“Suddenly, one weapon-wielding militant came right in the middle of the road targeting and firing (at the bus) and signalling us to stop. The driver got the first hit and was injured and the vehicle started going down (the hilly road). In the meantime, the militant came on the side of the bus and deflated the tyres of the bus and then he came around and tried to enter the bus and open the door which was locked,” Mr. Pathak said.
Had the militant entered the bus, Mr. Pathak said, there would have been many causalities.
The DG said that Rocky neutralised one terrorist and forced the other to flee the spot as he was sitting on a hilly feature at a distance and firing a “volley of bullets” to aid his associate.
“The militant was firing from one hand and holding grenade in the other and had he been successful in lobbing the grenade inside the vehicle, there would have been many causalities. The grenade exploded outside the bus and its splinters caused injuries to the troops sitting inside,” he said.
The BSF chief said he would not like to draw any conclusions or similarities between the terror incident of Gurdaspur in Punjab on July 27, 2015 and the one that occurred on Wednesday.
“It’s too early to draw any conclusion... It’s an isolated incident. We cannot draw any conclusion. I take it as an isolated incident,” he said.
Mr. Pathak refuted claims that there was any “violation of Standard Operating Procedures” by the force during the incident and asserted that the forum of exchange of information and intelligence between all the security agencies working in these areas was fine.
The BSF chief said in the wake of the two recent incidents in >Gurdaspur and Udhampur, where it is reasonably clear that terrorists came from across the border, the force keeps realigning its assets and manpower.
“Realignment of manpower and deployment is a continuous process and we keep doing that. We also do the vulnerability mapping of border areas and we have done it this time and we will keep doing that in the future also,” Mr. Pathak said.
He refrained from making any comment on the technique or track traversed by the militants who perpetrated the killings in Udhampur, saying it was the domain of the investigative agencies and police.
“We have little information but more confirmation and clarity is required. It’s a matter of investigation to which we are not privy. I understand the investigation is with NIA and the NIA team has already left today (for Udhampur),” he added.
In a statement in Parliament on the incident, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said Rocky and constable Shubhendu “not only thwarted the terrorists but also continued fighting till the end”.
“Their sacrifice will always be remembered. I salute the supreme sacrifice of BSF constables Shubhendu Roy and Rocky who fought the terrorists till their last breath,” the Home Minister said.
The DG said an AK series assault rifle and grenades were recovered from the militant.