Kathua attack: NIA joins probe; troops to track terrorists in forest

Security personnel conduct a search operation after a terror attack on Army vehicle that killed five jawans in the Badnota area of Kathua district. Photo: PTI

Jammu: The National Investigation Agency will assist the Jammu and Kashmir police in the probe into the Kathua terror attack that rocked the hill state on Monday. Special forces of NIA reached Kathua and widened their search for the perpetrators of the deadly attack on an army patrol in the Kathua district of Jammu region in which five soldiers were killed. Director General of Police R R Swain rushed to Kathua to oversee the operation in the remote Machedi region. The search for terrorists has been expanded to cover vast areas in Udhampur and Kathua districts, with Special Forces deployed to conduct surgical operations against the ultras, officials said.

As the operations were continuing in Kathua, a fresh gunfight erupted at Ghadi Bhagwah forest, located 35 km east of Doda town, following a search and cordon operation based on specific intelligence about the presence of at least three foreign terrorists. The clash in Doda came on the heels of the ambush of an army patrolling party on the rugged Machedi-Kindli-Malhar mountainous road near Badnota village in Lohai Malhar, approximately 150 km from Kathua district headquarters. The terror attack, which was the fifth in Jammu in one month, resulted in the death of five soldiers and injuries to as many personnel.

A joint cordon and search operation involving the Army, police, and CRPF has been initiated in multiple areas, supported by aerial and ground teams equipped with advanced surveillance technology.

The officials said that specialised forces were airdropped from a helicopter to track the terrorists involved in Monday's gunfight. Drones had been pressed into service to assist the troops marching into the dense forest. They said the search teams were being supported by helicopter and UAV surveillance besides sniffer dogs.

The police chief was accompanied by ADGP, law and order, Vijay Kumar and ADGP, Jammu zone, Anand Jain during the aerial survey and review meeting held for the ongoing operations, they said.

The scope of the search operation has been expanded to encompass large areas in the adjoining districts of Udhampur and Kathua, including Basantgarh, Seoj (a high-altitude area in Udhampur), and the upper reaches of Bani, Daggar, and Kindli in Kathua district.

Indian Army personnel during a counter-terror operation after terrorists ambushed an Army convoy, in Kathua district. Photo: PTI

The Monday attack mirrored a similar pattern to the Bhimbher Gali-Mendhar terror incident involving an Army truck on April 21, 2023, where five soldiers lost their lives. The terrorists initiated firing on the vehicle's wheels, followed by bursts of gunfire targeting its front and left sides.

Authorities have observed an increased presence of foreign militants in the region, with ongoing investigations delving into the weaponry and tactics employed in the recent attacks. The security forces remain vigilant in their efforts to neutralise the threat posed by these militants in the Kathua-Udhampur-Doda and Poonch-Rajouri-Reasi belts.
A team of NIA officials has been sent to Kathua in the Jammu region to extend all possible support to the police in its investigation, they said and made it clear that the probe agency has not registered a case to investigate the terrorist attack.

Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and Army Chief Gen Upendra Dwivedi paid tribute to the fallen soldiers from Uttarakhand - Naib Subedar Anand Singh, Havaldar Kamal Singh, Rifleman Anuj Negi, Naik Vinod Singh and Rifleman Adarsh Negi.
A solemn wreath-laying ceremony was conducted at the Pathankot army base in Punjab before their mortal remains were flown to their home state for final rites.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami pays tribute to the soldiers martyred in the line of duty in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir, at Jolly Grant Airport, in Dehradun. Photo: PTI

Condoling the loss of lives, President Droupadi Murmu described the terrorist attack as a "cowardly act" and favoured firm counter-measures. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh expressed deep anguish over the killing of the soldiers and asserted that the armed forces are determined to usher in peace in the region. Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane said the killing of five Army personnel will not go unavenged and India will defeat the evil forces behind it.

Political parties have expressed concern over the recent spate of terror incidents in J-K, especially in the Jammu region where militancy was wiped out over two decades ago.

Congress slams Modi govt
The Congress said that the Jammu region "becoming the centre of terror incidents" reflects the "strategic failure" of the Modi government and demanded that the Centre should take the country into confidence on steps it is taking to deal with the situation.

The opposition party also called for a befitting reply to Pakistan in the wake of the rising terror incidents in Jammu and Kashmir.

The incident is alarming, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said and accused the Union territory's administration of being lax towards the security situation.
"We have been saying time and again that militancy is a problem in J-K and you can't wish it away....

"I think the administration in J-K needs to be more vigilant, I think they are showing rather lax tendency with regard to the security situation and hopefully attacks like this won't happen again," he told PTI Videos.

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