Two days after Narendra Modi assailed Pakistan at an election rally in Hiranagar, three terrorists in army uniform attacked an SUV in nearby Dayalachak on the Jammu-Kathua national highway, killing two occupants of the vehicle and injuring three.
The heavily armed men then attacked an Army camp at Janglote and killed a jawan before being shot dead in an encounter with security forces that lasted all day.
The SUV commanderred by the terrorists was found abandoned in the Sahar Khud (nullah) in the morning. Bodies of two terrorists and their two vicitms were recovered in the evening.
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The third terrorist, who began a fresh exchange of fire with security forces around 4.45 pm, was shot dead after helicopters established his location in the dense foliage, sources said.
I-G, Jammu zone, Rajesh Kumar, said three-four terrorists had tried to enter the Army camp, but had slipped into the forests after being engaged by a sentry on duty. The attack was similar to the one that was carried out last September on Hiranagar police station and Samba Army camp about 20 km away.
No terrorist outfit had claimed responsibility for the attack until evening. Sources said police and security forces had intelligence inputs about terrorists’ plans to disrupt the Lok Sabha elections. Dayalachak and Jaglote are part of the Udhampur-Kathua Lok Sabha constituency, where union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is a multi-cornered contest with the BJP’s Jitender Singh. The deceased have been identified as Tarsem Singh, who was driving the vehicle, and Ajit Singh. Kamaljeet Singh, 33, Sahib Singh, 50, and Gurpreet Singh, 35, all from Punjab, have been admitted to the Government Medical College Hospital in Jammu.
All the victims were sewadars who had been constructing sheds and other facilities at the Radha Soami Satsang Beas in Vijaypur’s Thandi Khuie area for the last two months. The spiritual leader of the sect, Baba Gurinder Singh, was expected to visit the centre over April 12-13, sources said.
According to the sources, the devotees had left Vijaypur in a Mahindra Bolero around 4 am to go to Beas for a darshan of the Baba, and to pick up material for the ongoing works at Thandi Khuie. Some half an hour later, they were signaled to stop by three men in Army uniform at a bridge on the Tarnah nullah in Dayalachak.
The terrorists asked all occupants of the vehicle except the driver to get off, Kamaljeet Singh said. “They told us to start running away from the vehicle. As we did, they opened fire from their rifles, killing one of us and injuring others,” he said. After the terrorists had driven off towards Kathua, taking the vehicle and its driver along, one of the injured men called the secretary of the Radha Soami Satsang Beas in Jammu from his mobile phone. The secretary informed the police around 5 am. It was raining heavily at the time, and there were very few vehicles on the highway.
Even though all checkposts along the highway were alerted, the terrorists could be intercepted only around 7.30 am, after they had travelled nearly 20 km to Sahar Khud. They had apparently left the highway and taken the road to the camp of the 111 Rocket Unit of the Army’s Artillery Regiment, sources said.
However, they had had to abandon their vehicle after it got stuck in the soft soil of the nullah bed. They had continued on foot, and had reached the camp around 7.45 am.
It was yet to be ascertained whether the terrorists took the entire time after hijacking the Bolero to travel to Janglote from Dalayachak, or whether they spent time in recceing the camp before being challenged by the alert sentry. It had also not been ascertained whether they had entered India recently, or had already been staying in the country, waiting for an opportunity to strike.