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Five Indian Army Soldiers Killed in Poonch Attack by Suspected Militants

Anees Zargar |
The attackers, according to a defence spokesperson, had used heavy rains and low visibility in the area to their advantage.
An Army vehicle is in flames after a terror attack at Mendhar in J&K’s Poonch district on April 20, 2023.

An Army vehicle is in flames after a terror attack at Mendhar in J&K’s Poonch district on April 20, 2023. Image Courtesy: PTI

Srinagar: Five Indian Army soldiers were killed in an attack in the Pir Panjal valley of Jammu division after an Army vehicle moving in the Rajouri sector was targeted by suspected militants on Thursday. 

The HQ Northern Command in a statement said that the army vehicle was moving between Bhimber Gali and Poonch and came under the attack at about 3 pm following which the vehicle caught fire.

The attackers, according to the defence spokesperson, had used heavy rains and low visibility in the area to their advantage. “Five personnel of the Rashtriya Rifles Unit deployed for Counter Terrorist operations, in this area, have fortunately lost their lives in the incident,” the statement read. 

The victims of the attack were identified as Havildar Mandeep Singh, Lance Naik Debashish Baswal, Lance Naik Kulwant Singh, Sepoy Harkrishan Singh and Sepoy Sewak Singh of the Rashtriya Rifles (RR).

The Army added that another soldier, who received serious injuries in the attack, was evacuated immediately to the Army hospital at Rajouri and is under treatment.

Soon after the attack, the police and security forces launched an operation to locate the perpetrators. The attack, according to unverified claims online, has been carried out by an outfit PAFF, believed to be backed by Jaish e Mohammad (JeM). This is the second major attack in Jammu since January this year.

Earlier on January 1, suspected militants carried out targeted killings of civilians in the Dhangri village of Rajouri resulting in the killing of at least seven including two minors and injuring nine others. The attack in the border district of Rajouri occurred around the same time when Pakistan announced that its foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will be attending the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting that India is hosting on May 5. 

Zardari’s visit will be the first such attendance in India after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif last visited in 2014. With many setting their eyes on the summit as the beginning of the attempts to break the long thaw in ties between the two hostile neighbours, the Thursday’s attack will likely dampen the efforts.

Jammu - especially the areas of Poonch and Rajouri - has been witnessing militancy-related incidents for the last two years when the Kashmir region saw a rapid decline in the insurgency as cadres of militant outfits have shrunk drastically. This is despite holding up the latest ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan since 2021.

The attack on the Army vehicle was widely condemned with many terming the attack as a “despicable” attempt to threaten the fragile peace in the region.

“Terrible news of a terror attack in Poonch that claimed the lives of 5 army jawans in the line of duty. I unequivocally condemn this heinous attack and send my condolences to the loved ones of those killed today. May the souls of the departed rest in peace,” National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted.

The attack was also condemned by leaders from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Congress, Apni Party and People’s Conference amongst others.

“Condemning in no uncertain terms the despicable Poonch attack in which 5 army men lost their lives in the line of duty. I extend my condolences to the families of fallen soldiers,” senior Communist Party of India (M) leader M Y Tarigami said.

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