One IAF soldier killed, 4 injured in terror attack ahead of LS polls in J&K’s Poonch

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Jammu: One soldier was killed and four were injured as terrorists ambushed an Indian Air Force (IAF) convoy in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district on Saturday, three weeks ahead of polling in Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha constituency.

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

Officials said five security personnel were injured, two of them critically, when four terrorists opened fire on IAF vehicles moving towards Sanai Top in Poonch’s Surankot area in the evening.

One of the critically injured soldiers later succumbed at a military hospital during treatment, they said.

“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.

“In the ensuing gunfight with terrorists, the Air Warriors fought back by returning fire. In the process, five IAF personnel received bullet injuries, and were evacuated to the nearest military hospital for immediate medical attention. One Air Warrior succumbed to his injuries later. Further operations are on by the local security forces,” it said in another post.

The terror attack took place around 6:15 pm when the troops were returning to the air force station from Jaranwali.

The officials suspect the involvement of the same group of terrorists who ambushed troops in adjoining Bufliaz on December 21 last year, leaving four soldiers dead and three injured.

One of the trucks in the IAF convoy bore the maximum brunt of the attack with several bullets hitting its windscreen and side. The terrorists, who were armed with AK assault rifles, 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 has been launched to track down and neutralise the terrorists, they said, adding that there has been no contact with the fleeing terrorists so far.

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

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

The latest incident in the Pir Panjal region follows the killing of government employee Mohd Razaq, brother of an Army personnel, by terrorists in Rajouri’s Kunda Top on April 22 and village defence guard Mohd Sharief in the 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 for information leading to his arrest.

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.

Two terrorists, including top LeT commander Quari, were also killed in the two-day 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 attack 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 the Darhal area of Rajouri district. Both the terrorists involved in the attack were eliminated.

In 2021, nine soldiers were killed in two 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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