Four Pakistani suicide bombers of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) were on Thursday killed in an encounter with security forces at Ban near the strategic headquarters of the Indian Army’s 16 Corps at Nagrota on the Jammu—Srinagar highway. Two policemen were injured during the gunfight that began in the wee hours at 4.50 am at the toll plaza where the security forces had laid a cordon following intelligence inputs about movement of the terrorists in a Srinagar bound truck.
The terrorists are suspected to have infiltrated through the international border somewhere near Samba district of Jammu and boarded the truck with a cache of arms, ammunition and Pakistan made medicines. A team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) reached the spot to probe the incident.
The injured policemen have been identified as Kuldeep Raj (32) of the special operations group (SOG) and senior constable Mohammad Ishaq Malik of Ramban.
“In a bid to escape, terrorists tossed grenades at security forces when the truck was intercepted. The truck caught fire and a few grenades exploded inside it during the exchange of fire,” Mukesh Singh, Inspector General of Police (Jammu zone), said. Thereafter, the terrorists fled towards the forest area where they were trapped and the encounter broke out.
A cache of arms and ammunition, including 11 AK-47 Rifles, 3 pistols, 29 grenades and other devices were recovered from the slain terrorists. Medicines with Pakistan marking show Pakistani origin of these terrorists. The quantity of weapons and type of SOS medicines also indicates towards fresh infiltration and they being suicide attackers, said the IGP.
“The truck driver is absconding, we’re looking for him. It’s possible that they were planning a big attack. It is one of the largest seizures of its kind in the recent past, Its unprecedented. It’s possible that they were targeting the District Development Council (DDC) elections. However, we’re investigating,” said Mukesh Singh.
Giving details of the encounter, the IGP said that the CRPF soldiers and police personnel were fired upon with heavy ammunition. Grenades were also thrown, he said. More forces were summoned and the encounter lasted for three hours. The area has been sanitized and security has been tightened. The IGP over the public address system asked the terrorists to surrender but they continued firing at the security forces.
A cavity had been fabricated in the truck with registration number JK01AL1055 to hide terrorists and the arms and ammunition they were carrying.
The Jammu-Srinagar national highway was closed for vehicular traffic because of the encounter. Security has been tightened in Jammu, Udhampur, Nagrota and Katra (Vaishnodevi).
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha later visited Government Medical College here to enquire about the wellbeing of JKP injured jawans.
Lt Governor hailed the valour and quick reaction of the security forces in foiling the nefarious design of the terrorists. “I salute the exemplary courage and bravery displayed by our forces. The nation is proud of your professionalism and commitment to protect its sovereignty and integrity”, he added.
In a message to the public of Jammu and Kashmir, the Lt Governor said that the government and the security forces are working day and night to lay the foundation of its progressive and peaceful future and said that no outside forces can derail us from our mission.
The Lt Governor was accompanied by Advisor, RR Bhatnagar; Chief Secretary, BVR Subrahmanyam; Financial Commissioner Health, Atal Dulloo; IGP Jammu, Mukesh Singh, and Principal GMC Jammu, Dr. Shashi Sudhan Sharma among other senior officers.
Meanwhile, a top JeM commander and some other trapped terrorists are reported to have managed to flee after another brief gunfight with a joint team of Police, CRPF and Army at Parigam area of Pulwama in south Kashmir.