24 soldiers, 9 civilians killed in recent months in Rajouri-Poonch belt; Slain soldiers fought hard with terrorists; Ops still on, says DGP Dilbagh Singh; Terrorists triggered explosive device in retaliation: Army
Jammu, May 05 : Five army personnel from elite Special Forces Para lost their lives while one Major ranked officer got injured during the anti-terror operation launched in Kesari Hill area of Kandi forests in Rajouri district.
It may be recalled, security forces including army had launched massive combing operation in the woods of Rajouri-Poonch after April 20 ambush at Bhata Durian area of Poonch that left five soldiers dead.
Official sources told news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), that on a specific input, a joint Cordon and Search Operation (CASO) was launched in Kesari Hill area adjoining to Kandi – Khadyoon village road, falling under Kandi Police Station, around 35 kilometers far from district headquarters Rajouri. They said that during the CASO, teams established contact between terrorists and forces while heavy exchange of fire took place.
“Five army personnel from elite Special Force got killed while one Major ranked officer is injured and under treatment at Command Hospital Udhampur,” an army officer confirmed, adding, “Two para troopers suffered fatal casualties after terrorists triggered an explosive device in retaliation, while three succumbed to injuries later during treatment”.
The army personnel who lost their lives were identified as Lance Naik Ruchin Singh Rawat son of Rajendra Singh of Kunigad Gairsain, Uttrakhand, Paratrooper Siddhant Chettri son of Kharka Bahdur district Darjeeling, West Bengal, Naik Arvind Kumar son of Ujwaal Singh of Suri in Palampur of District Kangra Himachal Pradesh, Havaldar Neelam Singh son of Gurdev Singh of village Dalpat in Jourian Akhnoor, Jammu & Kashmir and Paratrooper Pramod Negi son of Devinder Singh Negi of village Shillai in Sirmaur Himachal Pradesh.
Meanwhile, senior security officers including Director General of Police, Dilbagh Singh, Additional Director General Jammu Zone Mukesh Singh, senior army and CRPF officers visited Kesari Hill encounter site and had a review of operational status. Senior officers had detail operational inputs from the officers on the ground. Interacting with reporters, Director General of Police, Jammu and Kashmir, Dilbagh Singh said that the soldiers who attained martyrdom battled hard with terrorists.
He further maintained that terrain is very difficult and operation to clear the area from the threat of terror has been underway.
DGP further said that further operational proceedings are going on nothing else can be stated as of now.
Moreover in statement, army said that columns have been conducting relentless intelligence based operations to flush out a group of terrorists involved in ambush on an army truck in Tota Gali area of Bhata Dhurian in Jammu region.
“On specific information about presence of terrorists in the Kandi Forest in Rajauri Sector, a joint operation was launched on May 3. At about 0730 hours on 05 May 2023, a search team established contact with a group of terrorists well entrenched in a cave. The area is thickly vegetated with rocky and steep cliffs. The terrorists triggered an explosive device in retaliation,” the statement said, additional teams from the vicinity have been directed to the site of encounter. The injured personnel have been evacuated to Command Hospital, Udhampur.
As per initial reports a group of terrorists are trapped in the area. There is a likelihood of casualties in terrorists group, the army statement said.
Security experts said that recent attacks and ambushes underline the ‘fragile’ security scenario in Rajouri-Poonch belt stating that five soldiers had lost their lives in the April 20 attack at Bhata Durian area Poonch while seven civilians were killed in Rajouri’s Dangri village in January 1and 2 attack. Two youth were shot dead outside army camp in Rajouri on December 16. “This hints at a very sensitive security atmosphere in Rajouri-Poonch belt,” a defence expert said.
Sources said that with death of five more soldiers in today’s Rajouri encounter, 24 Army personnel have been killed in 5 major terror attacks in Poonch-Rajouri belt of Jammu in the last 19 months.
“April 20 ambush and today’s operation was major setback for forces. This highlights the challenge posed by terrorists in Poonch and Rajouri,” a retired army officer said adding, “The April 20 attack was followed by a search operation, involving scores of soldiers, drones, and sniffer dogs, which remained unsuccessful and today’s encounter in which the Army has lost five more men, reminds us about the similar operation in October 2021 in the same area.”
In October 2021, an ambush on the Army in which five soldiers were killed, had led to a search that stretched over nearly two months. Four more soldiers were killed before the search drew to a close after failing to find any trace of the perpetrators of that attack.
After the October 2021 attack, there were three other major incidents in the same area, turning it into an area of concern. On August 11, 2022, five soldiers were killed after terrorists attacked an Army camp in Rajouri district. Two terrorists were shot dead as they were trying to scale the camp’s fence—(KNO)