Poonch ambush: Search underway for terrorists

Senior Army, police and civil officers are monitoring the situation, the sources said, adding additional police and paramilitary personnel were deployed in sensitive pockets

December 23, 2023 09:29 am | Updated 06:55 pm IST - Poonch/Rajouri

Security personnel during a search operation in the Thanmandi area of Rajouri district on December 22, after two Army vehicles were ambushed by heavily armed terrorists.

Security personnel during a search operation in the Thanmandi area of Rajouri district on December 22, after two Army vehicles were ambushed by heavily armed terrorists. | Photo Credit: ANI

A massive search operation was underway to track down terrorists behind the recent ambush on two Army vehicles that left five soldiers dead in Jammu and Kashmir.

Meanwhile, three men, aged between 27 and 42, were found dead under “mysterious circumstances” on Friday.

Their relatives and political leaders, however, alleged that they were among the eight people picked up by the Army for questioning in connection with Thursday’s ambush. They also alleged that four others were admitted to a government hospital with “torture injuries”.

The bodies of the civilians were laid to rest at their ancestral graveyard in Buffliaz Saturday afternoon, the officials said.

As the search operation was underway and the situation remained tense, the authorities suspended mobile Internet services in Poonch and neighbouring Rajouri district as a precautionary measure to check rumour-mongering and prevent any law and order problem, officials said.

Five soldiers were killed and two injured when heavily armed terrorists ambushed two Army vehicles at a blind curve at Dhatyar Morh between Dhera Ki Gali and Bufliaz on Thursday.

The ambush took place when the security personnel were moving to an ongoing search operation in the general area of Dhera Ki Gali in the Thanamandi-Surankote region.

Soon after the ambush, security forces launched a massive search operation in the densely forested areas, also covering nearby Thanamandi in Rajouri, but there was no fresh contact with the fleeing terrorists so far, officials said.

Sound of firing was heard deep inside a forest in Dhera Ki Gali area Saturday afternoon but the security agencies later clarified that security forces resorted to speculative firing to check a natural cave.

Sources said the bodies of three slain civilians — Safeer Hussain (43), Mohd Showket (27) and Shabir Ahmad (32) of Topa Peer village of Buffliaz — were handed over to their families after a postmortem Saturday morning.

“All the three were innocent civilians and died of torture in the custody of the Army,” Mohd Sadiq, a relative of one of the deceased, told PTI over phone from the village.

He said they have performed the last rites of the deceased on the assurance of Poonch Deputy Commissioner Choudhary Mohd Yasin and Senior Superintendent of Police Vinay Kumar, who remained present in the village throughout the day.

“They have assured us action...we want justice for the deceased. We want registration of FIR against the Army unit and adequate compensation along with a government job to the next of kin,” he said.

Sadiq, a panch, said he had informed senior police and civil officers about the random arrests and torture but nobody paid any heed.

“Five more persons are reportedly injured and are still in the custody of Army,” he said.

Sources, however, said four persons — Mohd Zulfkar, his brother Mohd Betab, Fazal Hussain and Mohd Farooq — were admitted to the Government Medical College Hospital in Rajouri with alleged torture injuries.

Jammu Divisional Commissioner Ramesh Kumar and Inspector General of Police Anand Jain are also camping in Poonch and are monitoring the situation, the officials said.

Additional police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed in sensitive pockets of the districts to maintain peace.

Meanwhile, senior CPI(M) leader M.Y. Tarigami also expressed grief over the death of three civilians and demanded an impartial probe into the circumstances leading to their death.

He said the death of soldiers in a terror attack is “most unfortunate” but the loss of three civilian lives is equally disturbing.

“Such unfortunate incidents should not happen. A fair probe to fix the responsibility is needed to book the culprits under law,” he said.

A BJP leader said the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s prompt action in providing compensation and jobs to the kin of the deceased civilians demonstrates its commitment to address the concerns of affected families.

The ongoing search operation and suspension of mobile Internet services reflect the authorities’ commitment to ensuring security and restoring peace in the region, he said.

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