J&K: 5 Indian Army Soldiers Killed in Rajouri as Gunfight Rages on
Srinagar: Five Indian Army soldiers including an officer were killed after militants triggered an explosive device in the Pir Panjal forests of Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district on Friday.
A team of Indian army soldiers which included its elite Para Special Forces were leading the searches in the thick Kandi Forest in the Rajouri sector. The security forces, according to a defence spokesperson, were conducting search operations to track a group of militants believed to have been involved in the April 20 attack on an Army vehicle in the Tota Gali area of Bhata Dhurian that resulted in the killing of five army soldiers and injuring another.
The blast occurred when the search party reached the spot and established contact with the militants said to be hiding in a cave which is surrounded by thick vegetation and rocky and steep cliffs, according to security officials privy to the terrain.
The joint operation was launched on May 3, 2023, and at about 7:30 am on Friday, the encounter began following which the militants are said to have triggered the explosion in “retaliation” killing two soldiers.
“The Army team suffered two fatal casualties with injuries to four more soldiers including an officer,” the defence spokesperson said in a statement. The three others succumbed to injuries later after they were shifted to the hospital.
The forces called for additional teams from the vicinity towards the encounter site whilst the injured personnel were immediately evacuated to Command Hospital in Jammu’s Udhampur. The officials claimed that there are possible casualties from the militant side as well; however, the casualties remain unconfirmed as the operation continues.
The authorities also suspended mobile internet services in parts of Rajouri after the encounter between militants and the forces continued during the day. The security agencies have launched a severe crackdown in the area since the last attack in April following which over 50 locals suspected of aiding the militants were detained as part of the investigations as tension heightened.
The latest casualties come at a time when Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Zardari is on an official visit to the Indian state of Goa to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting. This is the first such visit of a Pakistan minister for foreign affairs in the last decade that witnessed rising hostilities between the two neighbours. The diplomatic ties were also severed especially after the central government revoked Articles 370 and 35A in Jammu and Kashmir despite opposition from the regional political parties.
Even as the militancy is reported to have ebbed to an all-time low with less than 30 active cadres believed to operate in Kashmir valley, the Jammu region especially in the south of Pir Panjal range has seen a rise in militancy-related incidents. This is the third major attack here since January that has led to the killing of nine civilians and 10 army soldiers so far in three separate incidents.
The two attacks also come ahead of the G20 summit-related meetings in Kashmir expected to be hosted later this month. In view of the summit, the authorities have also heightened the security measures across the union territory and also warned of security threats.
Friday’s attack has drawn condemnation from political parties who paid tribute to the fallen soldiers.
“Tragic news from Rajouri where 5 army personnel have laid down their lives in the line of duty. Terror is a scourge that has blighted numerous lives over the decades in J&K and deserves unreserved condemnation. I send my sincere condolences to the families of those we lost today,” former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted.
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