Three heavily armed militants on Wednesday managed to escape to a forest area of Jhajjar Kotli on the Jammu-Srinagar highway after the police intercepted a Kashmir-bound truck.
While militants were fleeing the area, they fired upon a gardener of the sericulture department, Ganesh Dass, who received a bullet injury on his right arm. The gardener, wearing a khaki uniform, was on his way to office.
Sources said that with the interception of the armed militants, a possible terror attack was averted by security forces. The Northern Command headquarters in Udhampur is just a few kilometres from the site of the encounter in Jammu district.
The incident occurred around 8.10 am when the police intercepted a Pulwama-bound truck at Sai Cafeteria near Daami Bridge on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. Coming from the Samba area, the truck was carrying construction material.
The sources said the militants might have infiltrated recently from the 198-km-long International Border. According to eyewitnesses, the driver stopped the truck outside the Sai Cafeteria and asked for breakfast. “The driver told me to prepare ‘paranthas’ for five people and pack them for three people. Both driver and cleaner went to the washroom and when they returned, they were intercepted by two policemen who told them to open the truck,” Amit, the owner of the cafeteria, told Kashmir Post.
“When a policeman opened the side door of the truck, he got suspicious and moved back. Thereafter, another policeman tried to remove the sheet covering the vehicle but was fired upon by militants hiding in it. Under the cover of fire, militants jumped out of the truck and fled to the nearby forest area,” Amit added.
Earlier, the truck had jumped a police post at Suketar, 2 km from Jhajjar Kotli. An alert was sounded, but it took the security forces more than an hour to send their quick reaction teams. The militants had fled by then.
“The combing and search operation is being carried out on both sides of the Jhajjar stream and nearby places. This area has dense forest and we are taking utmost caution while sanitising it. If the operation enters into the night, it will be easy for us to trace the militants with the help of thermal images,” said an Army officer.
The police have arrested both the driver and the cleaner, who are being interrogated. “The search operation is going on with utmost care so that no collateral damage occurs. We are questioning the arrested duo, more details can’t be divulged at this point of time,” SDS Jamwal, IG, Jammu, told mediapersons.
Apart from the Army, police and Central Reserve Police Force personnel were also part of the operation. Choppers were also pressed into service to trace the militants but the forces couldn’t make any contact with them till late evening.
Immediately after the incident, traffic movement on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway was halted for a few hours. Vehicles were allowed to move after 3 pm with security forces keeping a tight vigil.
Could be fresh infiltrators: IGP
While talking to mediapersons, Inspector General of Police, Jammu, SDS Jamwal said the three militants could be part of a fresh group of infiltrators. “They boarded a truck somewhere between Dyalachak and Samba and were on their way to Kashmir. The truck driver and the cleaner have said they were given Rs 30,000 to ferry the militants to the Valley,” the IGP said. Jamwal said Pakistan had reactivated terror launch pads on the other side of the International Border.
Rana condemns attack
National Conference provincial president and Nagrota MLA Devender Singh Rana condemned the terror attack at Jhajjar Kotli, saying the peace-loving people of his constituency would fight terrorism in all its manifestations with full might. “Terrorism is the biggest challenge to the civilised world and this scourge is needed to be fought together and condemned in strongest words,” Rana said. He camped at the encounter site the entire day.