Five soldiers injured in terror attack on security convoy ahead of LS polls in J&K’s Poonch

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Jammu: Three weeks ahead of polling in Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha constituency, terrorists ambushed a vehicle convoy of Indian Air Force (IAF) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district, leaving five soldiers injured, officials said.

Poonch is part of Anantnag-Rajouri parliamentary constituency, which is going to polls in the sixth phase on May 25.

The border district of Poonch along with adjoining Rajouri have witnessed some of the major terrorist attacks over the past two years, signalling return of terror activities to the Pir Panjal region, which was once cleared of terrorism and remained peaceful between 2003 and 2021.

The officials said five security personnel were injured, two of them critically, when terrorists opened fire on security vehicles moving towards Sanai top in the border districts Surankot area in the evening.

“An Indian Air Force vehicle convoy was attacked by militants in the Poonch district of J-K, near Shahsitar. Cordon and search operations are underway presently in the area by local military units. The convoy has been secured, and further investigation is under progress,” the IAF said in a post on X.

The official suspected the involvement of the same group of terrorists who carried out an ambush on the troops in adjoining Bufliaz on December 21 last year, that left four soldiers dead and three others injured.

One of the trucks in the convoy bore the major brunt with several bullets piercing its front and side windscreen in the firing by the terrorists who were armed with AK assault rifles and are believed to have fled into the nearby forests, the officials said.

Reinforcements from the Army and police have been rushed to the area and a massive search and cordon operation was launched to track down and neutralise the terrorists, they said, adding there was no contact with the fleeing terrorists so far.

Police assisted by paramilitary forces carried out searches in Poonch town since Friday following inputs about movement of suspected persons. However, no one was arrested during the operation, the officials said.

The latest incident in the Pir Panjal region followed the killing of a government employee Mohd Razaq, brother of an Army personnel, by terrorists at village Kunda Top in Rajouri’s Shahdra area on April 22 and a village defence guard Mohd Sharief in Basantgarh area of Udhampur on April 28.

Police have released pictures of two Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists, including suspected Pakistani national Abu Hamza, involved in the murder of Razaq and announced a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head.

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

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.

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