Defence minister Rajnath Singh and Army chief Gen Manoj Pande visited Rajouri a day after five elite para commandos of the Army were killed and a major was wounded in an IED explosion during an anti-terrorist operation, codenamed ‘Trinetra’, in the forested Kandi area of the district.
Singh took stock of the situation and condoled the deaths. “Their sacrifice will never be forgotten…Nation feels secure because of your courage and commitment. We are with you always,” he said.
The two frontier districts of Rajouri and Poonch in the Jammu region were declared terrorism-free more than a decade ago, but recorded 35 fatalities, including 26 soldiers, in eight terrorist attacks since October 2021.
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On Saturday morning, J&K lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha attended a wreath-laying ceremony and paid tribute to the slain commandos: havildar Neelam Singh, naik Arvind Kumar, lance naik Ruchin Singh Rawat, and paratroopers Pramod Negi and Siddhant Chettri. “Our nation will always be indebted to their unparalleled valour,” Sinha said.
The commandos were part of a combing operation in the area after terrorists ambushed a military truck and killed five soldiers in Bhata Dhurian of Poonch district on April 20.
Sources attributed the attacks to a “spring offensive” when terrorists were typically known to escalate violence in J&K after the cold winter months, although exceptions were seen lately when seven civilians were killed in two strikes on January 1 and 2 this year in Dhangri village of Rajouri.
The terrorists have adopted a strategy of engaging troops or attacking people and then laying IEDs to harm security forces sent on a manhunt or to secure an attack site, PTI quoted military officials as saying. This was seen in Dhangri where IEDs killed more people after the previous night’s gun attack.
Security forces have redoubled their effort under Operation Trinetra to catch or kill terrorists involved in the two attacks that happened within a fortnight in Poonch and Rajouri.
J&K police said Saturday forces shot dead a terrorist and his associate was wounded in a gunfight in Rajouri’s Kandi area, while a Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist was killed in a shootout and an AK-47 assault rifle was found on him in Karhama village of north Kashmir’s Baramulla.
“The identity of the neutralised terrorist (in Kandi) is being ascertained. The operation is in progress,” Army spokesperson Lt Col Devender Anand said. “Security forces found an AK-56 rifle, four loaded magazines, a 9mm pistol with magazine, three grenades and an ammunition pouch on the encounter site.”
Northern Command GoC-in-C Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi reviewed the operational situation of ‘Trinetra’ on the ground.
While it was the second encounter in the Baramulla district in around 72 hours, the officer said that in view of the G20 summit all security agencies are on the high alert.