Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday took stock of the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir’s border districts of Rajouri and Poonch, where terrorists have killed 35 people, including 26 soldiers, in eight attacks since October 2021.
The visit of the defence minister to Rajouri comes a day after five elite para commandos of the army were killed during an anti-terrorist operation in the forested Kandi area of the district.
Singh, accompanied by Army chief General Manoj Pande and Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha, reached Ace of Spades Division headquarters in Rajouri after a brief stopover in Jammu, also interacting with the troops engaged in the ongoing operation against terrorists, the officials said.
Five army personnel were martyred and a major-rank officer was injured during a combing operation — ‘Operation Trinetra’ — in the Kandi area on Friday. A holed up terrorist was killed and one more is believed to be injured this morning.
Officials said the army chief reached Jammu from Delhi ahead of the defence minister, who followed him minutes later. Lt Governor also joined senior civil and army officers to receive the defence minister.
Northern Army commander Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi, Corps commander White Knight Corps, and Divisional Commissioner, Jammu are also accompanying Rajnath to Rajouri, the officials said.
After getting a brief on the operation in Kandi forest, the defence minister chaired a high-level security meeting to review the overall security situation in Jammu and Kashmir, especially in Rajouri and Poonch before returning to Jammu, they said.
Earlier in the day, Lt Gen Dwivedi visited the encounter site and was briefed on the developments in the ongoing ‘Operation Trinetra’ by ground commanders.
Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu, which were declared terrorism-free more than a decade ago, have been rocked by a series of deadly attacks by terrorists in the past 18 months.
The loss of five jawans in Kandi forest is the third major incident this year. It took place at a time when the forces had been engaged in a massive combing operation for the past 15 days following an ambush on an army truck in Bhata Dhurian (Poonch).
Five soldiers were killed and another was injured on April 20 when an army truck carrying fruits and vegetables for Iftar was bombed and strafed with bullets by terrorists.
More than 250 people were detained for questioning during combing operations in the wake of the incident. Six overground workers who extended full support to terrorists were arrested, they said.
According to military officials, terrorists now have adopted a strategy of engaging troops or attacking people and then laying improvised explosive devices to harm security forces engaged in combing operations.
This also happened in Dhangri village in Rajouri where terrorists killed seven civilians in two attacks that came on heels of each other on January 1 this year.
In two major incidents in Rajouri in 2022, five army personnel and two terrorists were killed in a suicide attack at a security camp at Pargal-Darhal on August 11, while two civilians were killed in a firing incident outside an army camp near Rajouri town.
Four blasts rocked Kotranka in Rajouri district between March and April last year. All these cases were worked out by police with the arrest of the accused.
Nine army personnel were killed in two separate encounters with terrorists in Bhatta Durrian in Mendhar tehsil of Poonch districts in October 2021.
Two army personnel, one of them a lieutenant, were killed in a mine blast in Nowshera sector of Rajouri on October 30, 2021. Rajouri and Poonch districts have witnessed more killings of Army personnel than the militancy-hit Kashmir Valley.