2 killed, 6 injured in explosion in J-K's Rajouri

Army personnel with a sniffer dog conduct searches near the house where an IED explosion took place, at Dangri village in Rajouri district, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023: PTI

Rajouri/Jammu: In an apparent security lapse, two cousins - aged four and 16 - were killed when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off in a village in Jammu's Rajouri area on Monday, 14 hours after terrorists had shot dead four people there.

The terrorists, locals claimed, had planted the IED on Sunday itself and it was missed during the scanning by police and security officials who had cordoned off the area after the shootings last evening.

Samiksha Sharma (16) and Vihan Kumar Sharma (4) were killed and six others injured in the blast in Dangri village near the house of Pritam Lal, a victim of the Sunday attack, locals said. There were several people, including Lal's relatives, in the house when the blast took place at around 9.30 am. Six persons were killed and 12 injured in the two incidents.

Village Sarpanch (headman) Deepak Kumar said that it was a serious security lapse on the part of police and security agencies.

"It is a serious security lapse by security agencies. Minority community people do not feel secure. The administration should take tough measures," he told reporters in Rajouri.

As the incidents led to protests across the district, including in Rajouri town, and a complete shutdown, Director General of Police Dilbag Singh, who visited the site, said that the IED blast was intended to target senior officers who were about to reach there.

He announced that village defence committees (VDCs) will now be revived and rearmed after some protesting leaders and locals claimed that the incidents could have been averted had the authorities not taken away the weapons of VDCs.

"The improvised explosive device (IED) was planted beneath a bag," Additional Director General of Police, Jammu, Mukesh Singh told reporters in Rajouri.

Senior J-K BJP leader and former MLC Vibodh Gupta alleged that 60 per cent of the guns of VDCs have been taken back.

The DGP met the protesters who were refusing to conduct the last rites of the victims till Lt Governor Manoj Sinha came to the spot.

Later in the evening, Sinha arrived at the village where he assured the protesters that the guilty would be punished.

The government is determined to end the era of terrorism from Jammu and Kashmir and all support will be extended to the bereaved families, Sinha told the gathering before a meeting with village heads and police.

"What you told me (about security lapses and measures), I promise you we will go into the depth of the matter. Whatever strong and necessary action is needed will be taken," Sinha said.

After the meeting with the LG, the protestors agreed to cremate the bodies on Tuesday morning.

The VDCs were first set up in the mid-1990s in the Chenab Valley area of Jammu to arm and train villagers to defend against Pakistan-sponsored militants and comprise villagers as well as Special Police Officers (SPOs).

Those behind the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Dangri village will not go unpunished, Sinha said on Monday and announced Rs 10 lakh ex-gratia and a government job to the next of kin of the deceased civilians.

Officials said a team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has reached Dangri village for an investigation

The army and police are conducting a massive search operation, the senior police officer, who reached the spot along with Jammu-Divisional Commissioner Ramesh Kumar, said.

He said that locals have reported that two terrorists are involved in the attack.

DGP Dilbag Singh, who reached the attack site in Rajouri, said, "I came because it was more important to be in solidarity with the families. So instead of heading to Kashmir, I came straight away. Do not forget this incident. There may be more IEDs as well."

At the protest site, the DGP said that the people of Rajouri have bravely fought terrorism in the past.

"I am sad over the killings. It is a matter of grief. It is time to give a boost to VDCs.

"No guns will be taken away..., if some guns have been taken away, they will be returned (to VDCs) and more guns will be provided if needed," he said.

On Sunday's attack, Singh said two terrorists fired on three houses in which four people were killed and six injured. The condition of the injured is stable, he said.

These are the first such incidents in the past many years in the otherwise peaceful Jammu region.

In Jammu, protests against Pakistan were held by VHP, Bajrang Dal, Mission Statehood, Shiv Sena and Dogra Front.

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