Around 30 people have been detained for questioning so far as security forces conducted a massive search operation to track down the terrorists who ambushed an Army truck in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch killing five personnel last week, officials said on April 23.
Necessary action is being taken against the terrorists responsible for the deadly attack, the Army’s Northern Commander Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi said during an interaction with the personnel who survived the ambush in the dense forest area of Bhata Dhurian on April 20.
A stretch of the Jammu-Poonch national highway which was closed following the ambush was reopened for vehicular traffic on April 23.
In a tweet on its official handle, the Army’s Northern Command shared Lt Gen Dwivedi’s visit to the Command Hospital in Udhampur and interaction with the survivor.
“Dwivedi interacted with the survivor…and assured that necessary action is underway,” it tweeted along with two pictures of the soldier.
Five soldiers were killed and one was injured after the terrorists attacked the lone Army truck, which was carrying eatables for iftar to a nearby village.
The Army’s Northern Commander visited the attack site on April 22.
The Bhata Dhurian forest area has for long remained a preferred infiltration route for terrorists from across the Line of Control because of its topography, dense forest cover and natural caves.
Mr. Dwivedi reviewed the security in the border area and the ongoing combing operation to track down the terrorists.
The Northern Command said in a tweet that he was briefed on the actions undertaken so far and exhorted the troops to be steadfast in their resolve.
While the search operation was underway amid a high alert in the twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri, vehicular movement on the Jammu-Poonch highway resumed on April 23 morning after remaining suspended since April 20 evening, officials said.
They said traffic was earlier diverted to other routes to secure the highway which connects the twin border districts with Jammu.
Some of the people who passed through the scene of the attack said a traffic signboard put up by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) bore three bullet marks and the road stretch was strewn with vegetables and fruits.
The officials said around 30 people have been detained for questioning so far.
“Among those rounded up are two couples from Degwar in Poonch — Iqbal and his wife Mudifa and Salam Din and his wife Rashida,” an official source said, adding further investigation was underway.
The slain soldiers were from a Rashtriya Rifles unit deployed for counter-terror operations.
Sources earlier said the attack was suspected to have been carried out by a group of three to four terrorists.
The attackers possibly spent more than a year in Rajouri and Poonch and had adequate knowledge of the terrain, they added.
The Jammu and Kashmir Gaznavi Force (JKGF) is said to be active in the area and its “commander”, Rafiq Ahmed alias Rafiq Nayi, hails from the region.
Currently, three-four terrorist groups are active in the region of Rajouri and Poonch, the sources said.
The terrorists who ambushed the Army truck used steel core bullets, capable of piercing an armoured shield, and decamped with the soldiers’ weapons, officials said on April 23.
They said a sniper is believed to have targeted the truck from the front before the other terrorists sprayed bullets and lobbed grenades on it.
Experts from various agencies, including the National Security Guard (NSG) and the National Investigation Agency (NIA), have visited the site of the attack over the past two days and have managed to get a clear picture of the deadly ambush which was laid by the terrorists, the officials said.
Also Read: Army cancelled convoy hours before truck was ambushed on same route in Jammu, says official
Meanwhile, members of the Gujjar and Bakarwal communities on April 23 visited an Army unit in the Akhnoor sector here to express their solidarity with the forces.
Mohd Akram, who was leading the 113-member-strong community delegation, appealed to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to provide free hand to the Army in tackling the threat of cross-border terrorism.
“We moved from Banihal tehsil in Ramban district to Akhnoor some 25 years back when militancy was at its peak and it was the Army which provided relief to us and ensured that we did not face any problem. We strongly condemn the attack on the troops and our community stands with our soldiers,” Akram told reporters.
He said the terrorists are working at the behest of Pakistan to disturb the peaceful atmosphere in Jammu and Kashmir and should be dealt with sternly. “We request the defence minister to provide a free hand to the Army to tackle with terrorism,” he said.
A defence spokesman thanked the community for its concern and said the Gujjars and Bakkarwals are one of the most victimised communities of Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir since the early 90s.
“The community has suffered at length, frequently at the cost of precious lives and property at the hands of terrorists supported from across the border. These valiant nomadic people have supported the Indian Army in counter insurgency and counter terrorism operations with great courage and conviction,” the spokesman said.