Updated: April 23, 2022 1:21:09 pm
With just two days to go for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first official visit to Jammu & Kashmir since the state was split into two Union Territories in August 2019, police and security forces killed two suspected Pakistani terrorists “wearing suicide vests” during a nearly five-hour encounter on Friday near the Sunjwan military station in the Jammu region, according to senior officials.
However, an Assistant Sub-Inspector of CISF, identified as S P Patel, also died as the terrorists fired at a bus carrying security personnel, they said. Nine others were injured in the gunbattle, including police and security personnel.
#WATCH CCTV footage of the terrorist attack on the bus carrying CISF personnel in the Sunjwan area of Jammu early yesterday
(Source unverified) pic.twitter.com/2TUzFIupZy
— ANI (@ANI) April 23, 2022
In two other incidents, officials said four suspected militants were killed in a security operation at Baramulla in north Kashmir, and two migrant workers were shot at by suspected militants on the outskirts of Srinagar.
The Jammu encounter took place barely a stone’s throw from the rear outer boundary wall of the military station in the Jalalabad area — the same direction from where militants had entered the installation for attacks in 2003 and in 2018 as well. Twelve soldiers were killed when two terrorists stormed the military station in 2003, and five soldiers were among nine killed in 2018.
The Prime Minister is scheduled to visit the region on April 24 to launch several power and infrastructure projects, including the 8.45-km all-weather Banihal-Qazigund tunnel that will reduce the distance between Jammu and Srinagar by 16 km and travel time by almost two hours. Modi will be accompanied by Union Minister Giriraj Singh and industrialists from the UAE.
DGP Dilbagh Singh said the terrorists killed near the military station “hailed from Pakistan and owed allegiance to Jaish-e-Mohammad”. “They were wearing suicide vests, which they would have exploded to cause more damage if they had exhausted their ammunition,” he said.
“It looked like a recent infiltration operation, and they had come with the mission to launch an attack. It was a big conspiracy to disturb the peaceful atmosphere of Jammu. If they had been able to launch a successful attack, it would have had implications on the Prime Minister’s visit,’’ he said.
Singh, however, ruled out suggestions that the militants had planned to target the Prime Minister’s rally on April 24 at Palli village in Samba district.
According to the DGP, security forces and police recovered a satellite phone, three AK 47 rifles along with ammunition, “a large number” of hand grenades, IEDs, a wireless set, food, energy drinks and medicines from the slain militants. “They had all the things that fidayeen carry with them,” he said.
Senior officials said security personnel launched an operation in the Sunjwan area on Thursday night following information that two militants have been sent from Pakistan to carry out an attack on security forces or an Army camp in the Union Territory.
“Around 3.40 am, the militants, who appeared to be hiding in a nullah near the house of a local PDP leader, climbed on the roof of a workshop and opened fire on a police party at a checkpost on the road leading to a colony outside the military station,” a senior police officer said.
In the firing, the officer said, five policemen were injured. “In the meantime, a bus carrying CISF personnel, who were also part of the night-long operation to flush out militants, reached the spot and a bullet fired by the terrorists hit ASI Patil,” the officer said.
“Thereafter, the terrorists came down from the roof of the workshop and moved to the adjoining residence of the workshop owner, who was not there. His wife and two children, who were inside the house, did not open the doors and kept the lights off. The militants then hid themselves in a bathroom near the house,” the officer said.
“Police and security forces strengthened their cordon and contacted the workshop owner who was staying at another home that he owned in the locality. Thereafter, the police shifted his wife and children to a safer location and zeroed in on the bathroom where the militants were hiding and killed both of them, after a fierce exchange of fire, by 9.30 am,” the officer said.
“Since the militants were hiding in a residential area, security forces asked local residents to move to safer locations before their final assault. During the exchange of fire, some bullets even hit the walls of the nearby house of local PDP leader Rashid Malik and his vehicle parked in the courtyard,” the officer said.
Local residents said they mistook the sound of gunfire for firecrackers. “We woke up around 3.35 am and thought a tyre had burst. Then, we thought someone was bursting crackers,” said Jamuna Prasad, a labourer from MP’s Chattarpur, who has been staying in a rented one-room accommodation in the area along with his wife and two children for the past six years.
“But soon, we realised it was gunfire and that militants were in the area. We locked the room from inside. We opened the door only when the Armymen came and asked us to move to a safer location around 4.30 am,’’ Prasad said.
Apart from the attacks in 2003 and 2018, there have been at least five other “fidayeen attacks” in the Jammu region over the past 20 years:
2016: Three terrorists attacked an Army camp in Nagrota, nearly 3 km from the 16 Corps HQ. Two officers and five soldiers were killed. The terrorists also entered two buildings occupied by Army officers and their families, leading to a hostage-like situation. Army troops evacuated 12 soldiers, two women and two children, before killing the militants.
2004: Two terrorists attacked the Jammu railway station on January 2, killing four soldiers.
2002: Three terrorists attacked the Ragunath and Panjbakhtar temples in old Jammu, killing ten people. All the attackers were killed by police.
2002: Three terrorists attacked the Kaluchak cantonment in Jammu, killing 36 people, including security personnel, their family members and civilians, before being gunned down by troops.
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2002: Two terrorists killed three security personnel in an attack on Ragunath temple before being gunned down.
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