JCO among five army personnel killed in terrorist ambush in JK's Kathua, five injured

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Kathua/Jammu, Jul 8 (PTI) Five army personnel, including a Junior Commissioned Officer, were killed and as many were injured on Monday when heavily armed terrorists ambushed a patrolling party in the remote Machedi area of Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district, officials said.

The terror attack, the fifth in Jammu region in a month, evoked widespread condemnation with political leaders including three former chief ministers expressing concern over the growing terror incidents, especially in the Jammu region where militancy has returned after being wiped out over two decades ago.

The terrorists targeted an army truck, part of a routine patrolling party, with a grenade and gunfire on the Machedi-Kindli-Malhar road near Badnota village in Lohai Malhar, approximately 150 km from Kathua town, at around 3:30 pm, the officials said.

After the ambush, the terrorists fled into the nearby forest as the army, assisted by police and paramilitary personnel, retaliated.

The army vehicle, carrying ten occupants, bore the brunt of the attack, resulting in fatal injuries to five soldiers, including a JCO. Five others are undergoing treatment.

An exchange of fire between the terrorists and security forces ensued, with reinforcements quickly dispatched to the area to neutralise the attackers - believed to be three in number and heavily armed - who may have recently infiltrated from across the border.

It is the second major attack in Kathua district within one month, following a similar confrontation on June 12 and 13 that left two terrorists and a CRPF jawan dead.

A massive search operation is on despite heavy rains, the officials said.

Director General of Police R R Swain is personally overseeing the anti-terrorist operation in the dense forest area, connected to Basantgarh in Udhampur district, where several encounters have occurred in the past.

The forest area is connected to Basantgarh in Udhampur district. A village defence guard Mohd Sharief was killed in an encounter with terrorists on April 28 in Panara village of Basantgarh.

The officials said there were apprehensions that this route was used by terrorists to reach the hinterland after they managed to sneak in from across the border.

The Jammu region, known for its peaceful atmosphere, has been shaken in recent months by a series of ambushes and attacks by terrorists, particularly in the border districts of Poonch, Rajouri, Doda, and Reasi.

The recent escalation in terrorist activities has been attributed to attempts by Pakistani handlers to reignite terrorism.

Security agencies have been on high alert following a recent ambush in the Gandoh area of Doda district, where three foreign terrorists were killed in a gunfight on June 26.

An army camp in the Manjkote area of Rajouri district was targeted in a firing incident early Sunday, resulting in injuries to a soldier.

One of the most tragic incidents occurred on June 9 when terrorists attacked a bus carrying pilgrims from the Shiv Khori temple in Reasi district, claiming the lives of nine persons and injuring 41 others.

These incidents follow a pattern of escalating violence in the region, with previous attacks on security vehicles, search parties and military convoys resulting in casualties among both civilians and security personnel.

Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Rahul Gandhi and former chief ministers – Omar Abdullah of National Conference, Mehboob Mufti of PDP and Ghulam Nabi Azad – condoled the loss of lives and expressed concern over the security situation in the region.

In a post on X, Gandhi said that the "fifth terrorist attack within a month is a grave blow to the security of the country and the lives of our soldiers".

"The answer to the continuous terrorist attacks has to be strict action, not hollow speeches and false promises," he said, hitting out at the government.

The security situation in Jammu and Kashmir is on a downward spiral, Kharge claimed and added, "No amount of whitewashing, fake claims, hollow boasts and chest-thumping can erase the fact that Modi Govt remains a disaster for the National Security in J&K." Mehbooba, in a post on X, said it is tragic and shocking that soldiers are losing their lives in the line of duty in places where one found little to no trace of militancy before 2019.

"Tells you all there is to know about the current security situation in J&K. Deepest condolences to their families,” the PDP leader said.

Azad said on X, “The rise in terrorism in Jammu province is deeply concerning…the government must act decisively to tackle terrorism and ensure public safety.” Earlier in May, terrorists ambushed an Indian Air Force (IAF) convoy in Poonch district, killing a soldier and injuring several others.

The attackers were believed to be the same group of terrorists who carried out an ambush on troops in adjoining Bufliaz on December 21 last year that left four soldiers dead and three others injured.

The Bufliaz ambush came weeks after a major gunfight in the Dharmsal belt of Bajimaal forest in Rajouri that left five Army personnel, including two captains, dead.

Two terrorists, including a top commander of LeT identified as Quari, were also killed in the two-day long gunfight.

Quari was said to be the mastermind behind several attacks, including the killing of 10 civilians and five Army personnel in the district.

The stretch between Dhera Ki Gali and Bufliaz on the boundary of Rajouri and Poonch is densely forested and leads to Chamrer forest and then Bhata Dhurian forest, where five soldiers were killed in an ambush on an Army vehicle on April 20 last year.

In May last year, five more Army personnel were killed and a major-rank officer was injured in Chamrer forest during an anti-terrorist operation. A foreign terrorist was also killed in the operation.

In 2022, five Army personnel were killed when terrorists carried out a suicide attack on their camp at Pargal in Darhal area of Rajouri district. Both the terrorists involved in the attack were eliminated.

In 2021, nine soldiers were killed in two separate attacks by terrorists in the forested region. While five Army personnel, including a junior commissioned officer (JCO), were killed on October 11 in Chamrer, a JCO and three soldiers were killed on October 14 in a nearby forest.

Despite these adversities, security forces remain vigilant in their efforts to combat terrorism and safeguard the residents of Jammu and Kashmir, officials said. PTI TAS SKL RT RT RT

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