Major terror bid foiled at Jhajjar Kotli, 3 JeM terrorists flee into forests after firing at SFs

Sumit Sharma. Updated: 9/13/2018 11:23:48 AM Front Page

Forest guard injured, massive searches on; Driver, helper of Valley-bound truck held

JAMMU: In a serious security lapse, three terrorists, believed to be part of a freshly infiltrated suicide squad of Jaish-e-Mohammed outfit, fired at security personnel from a Anantnag-bound truck on national highway at Jhajjar Kotli area before escaping into a forest, but not before injuring a forest guard early Wednesday morning.

The locals caught driver and the conductor of the truck from which an AK assault rifle and three magazines were seized, even as a high alert was sounded in the region, with Army, CRPF and Police launching a massive search and combing operation in Reasi and Udhampur districts.

Considering the spot of incident being barely few kilometers from SMVDU and Katra base camp, the police have put all checkpoints on the highway on alert, with many new ones erected instantly, and vehicles are being checked while drone and helicopters have also been pressed into service to nab the terrorists.

The search operation which continued till late hours tonight, will resume with the first light on Thursday morning.

The incident took place at 8 am when an Anantnag-bound truck bearing registration number JK03 F-1476 halted at a cafeteria. The driver and the conductor of the truck were having their breakfast at the food joint and had also ordered five ‘Paranthas’ to be packed for three terrorists who were hiding inside the truck parked nearby.

In the meanwhile, two unarmed police men who suspected bovine smuggling in the truck covered with the trampoline, approached the duo and inquired about their truck.

It was then that three armed persons, watching it all from inside the truck, jumped off it and opened firing, reports said.

A forest guard, wearing a uniform, became their victim as he was hit with a bullet in the wrist. He was identified as Ganesh Dass (52), an employee of the Sericulture Department, who was shifted to Government Medical College and Hospital, Jammu and is said to be stable.

The trio later fled towards the forest area between Jhajar Kotli and Nagrota, adjacent to the Police Station Jhajjar Kotli. The driver and the co-driver were over powered by one Ashok Kumar and other local persons of the area.

The duo was later handed over to the police. The Special Task Force of the state police has taken the driver and his aide to the place in Jhajar Kotli where they were picked up, the officials said.

Piecing together events of the morning from the interrogation of the driver, from Budgam in central Kashmir, officials said the trio infiltrated from the Kathua-Samba border early Wednesday morning. They boarded the truck at Chak Dayala, a village about two to three kilometres from the international border.

A police team from Srinagar was dispatched to lift the owner of the truck namely Fayaz Ahmed Sheikh of Anantnag while the detained driver and co driver are being questioned in police lock up.

The three terrorists are believed to be part of the Jaish-e-Mohammed and had entered India to carry out a 'fidayeen' (suicide) attack, a senior official said.

“As per initial reports, the trio terrorists had infiltrated from Pakistan side. The driver is being questioned while the search operation to nab the absconding ultras is on,” said ADG Law and Order Munir Ahmed Khan.

SSP Jammu, Vivek Gupta said that police have seized the truck and arrested its driver and cleaner.

Gupta added that an AK assault rifle and three magazines were seized from the truck.

"The recoveries, including medicines and dry fruits, made from the truck suggest that they (terrorists) are here to carry out a terror attack," he said. The truck was laden with the JK Wall Putti.

The Police officer in his statement to media said that the said truck was signaled to stop by police team near Suketar Naka, but truck didn’t stop and sped up towards Jhajjar Kotli. However, police team chased it and on seeing the police party, militants suddenly started firing from the truck and fled away from the spot towards the jungle.

“The truck, which was loaded with wall putty, allegedly waited for Pakistani militants at Dayala Chak (Samba). They boarded the truck from there and started their journey towards their target (somewhere in Kashmir or Northern Command Headquarters in Udhampur),” sources said.

Using the bypass road, the truck attempted to flee at a security checkpoint near Jhajar Kotli and was intercepted by security personnel after a few metres, officials said, giving details.

They said the men crossed over to the India side through a 'nallah', or drain.

"This is being frequently used. The issue has been flagged but the BSF, which is mandated to man the international border, disputes it every time," an official said.

Speaking to media persons, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Jammu Zone, Dr SD Singh Jamwal, “We have taken all precaution to avoid civilian casualty during search operation because of dense forest in Jhajjar Kotli.”

He said that “We have made additional deployment on all the nakas and vigil on escape routes has been increased. Till now, there is no cross firing. Our first priority is to avoid the loss of civilian life and to ensure the militants may not escape.”

“We have got some leads from the interrogation of detained Kashmir based truck driver and another man (conductor). We cannot share details,” he added.

A high alert was issued for areas along the Jammu-Srinagar national highway and the Jammu region after the incident.

The last time a terror incident happened in the Jammu region of the 294 km highway was in August 2015 when Lashker-e-Taiba terrorists fired at a Border Security Force (BSF) convoy, killing two personnel.

Meanwhile, hours after group of terrorists fired at a police party, Jammu and Kashmir Police issued look out notice claiming that the terrorists were three in number.

Police spokesperson said, “Today morning at about 0800 brief encounter took place between police and terrorists in Jhajjar nallah near police station Jhajjar Kotli.”

"They (terrorists) are three in number in age group of 18-22 years, all are putting pithus and two of them have AK Rifles and third with pistol," said the spokesman, further adding that one of them is wearing Pathan dress (suit) and two have pants shirt.”

Police spokesperson said that the terrorists managed to escape in Jhajjar Kotli area and are being searched by police army and CRPF.

"Anyone if happens to see them or have any knowledge about them should inform police on SSP PCR Jammu on SSP PCR 7006690780 or PCR Reasi no 9622856295 he would be suitably rewarded," said police.

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