Kathua terror attack: Searches intensified as DGP reviews ongoing operation

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Indian Army personnel during a counter-terror operation following a terrorist attack on an Army convoy, in Kathua district, Tuesday, July 9, 2024.

Indian Army personnel during a counter-terror operation following a terrorist attack on an Army convoy, in Kathua district, Tuesday, July 9, 2024.

Kathua/Jammu: A massive search operation was underway on Tuesday to track down the terrorists behind the deadly attack on an Army patrol party in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua district, as Director General of Police R R Swain flew to the area to oversee the operation on the ground.

The bodies of the five soldiers killed in the attack have been handed over to the Army after postmortem and were airlifted to their homes for last rites, officials said.

Accompanied by ADGP Anand Jain, DGP Swain conducted an aerial survey of the area and reviewed the ongoing operations, they said.

The scope of the search operation has been expanded to encompass large areas in the adjoining districts of Udhampur and Kathua, including Basantgarh, Seoj (a high-altitude area in Udhampur), and the upper reaches of Bani, Daggar, and Kindli in Kathua district.

Special forces of the Indian Army's 'Para' unit have been deployed to conduct surgical operations against the terrorists in specific areas, the officials said.

Ground search teams are being supported by helicopter and UAV surveillance. Additionally, sniffer dogs and metal detectors are being utilized, with a particular focus on dense forest areas in the region.

The officials said that a joint cordon and search operation, involving the Army, police and CRPF, was launched in Machedi, Badnote, Kindli, and Lohai Malhar areas, with a significant area placed under cordon.

The bodies of the five soldiers were airlifted following postmortem examinations conducted at the Sub District Hospital in Billawar, Jammu and Kashmir.

Additional Deputy Commissioner of Billawar, Vinay Khosla said that the bodies were handed over to the Army and subsequently airlifted.

He further said that out of eight injured soldiers brought to the Billawar hospital, six were shifted to the Pathankot military hospital by the Army.

The officials indicated that currently three to four groups of terrorists, mostly foreign militants, are active in the region, adding they have observed an increase in the presence of foreign militants in the Kathua-Udhampur-Doda belt and the Poonch-Rajouri-Reasi belt in recent times.

Five Army personnel, including a junior commissioned officer, were killed, and an equal number were injured in the ambush by heavily armed terrorists in the remote Machedi area on Monday.

According to sources, three to four terrorists, mostly foreigners, are believed to have executed the ambush. They appear to be linked to the same group which was involved in Basangarh attack in which village defence guard Mohd Sharief was killed in an encounter with terrorists on April 28 in Panara village.

The attack mirrored a similar pattern to the Bhimbher Gali-Mendhar terror incident involving an Army truck on April 21, 2023, where five soldiers lost their lives. The terrorists initiated firing on the vehicle's wheels, followed by bursts of gunfire targeting its front and left sides.

The sources said that the condition of the road and the slow speed of the truck in the area likely facilitated the attack.

Investigations into the weaponry and ammunition used in the attack are currently ongoing.

In June, security forces had observed movement of a group in the upper reaches of Bani, Daggar, and Kindli areas of Kathua district, leading to subsequent search operations.