Poonch attack: Cordon-and-search operation enters day 2, top officials visit site

A cordon-and-search operation backed up by drones and sniffer dogs to trace the terrorists who killed five Army personnel in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch entered the second day on Saturday.

Top security officials, including Border Security Force (BSF) Director General S L Thaosen and Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Mukesh Singh, besides those from the National Security Guard (NSG), visited the spot during a security review of the border belt.

Fourteen people were detained for questioning, officials said, adding that some of them have been let off.

Five Army personnel were martyred and another was seriously injured after their vehicle caught fire following the terror attack in Poonch on Thursday.

A preliminary investigation has revealed that the Army truck was carrying fruits and other items to a forward village for Iftar that was supposed to be hosted by the Army’s Rashtriya Rifles unit on Thursday evening, sources said.

“The cordon-and-search operation is going on in large areas of Bhata Dhurian-Tota Gali and neighbouring areas to hunt down the terrorists involved in the attack. Multiple security agencies are engaged in the operation,” a senior officer said.

The entire area has been cordoned off, he added.

Drones and sniffer dogs have also been pressed into service, the officials said.

The troops involved in the operation are exercising utmost caution as the terrorists may have planted improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the densely forested area with deep gorges and caves, they added.

Traffic on the Bhimber Gali-Poonch road was stopped following the terror attack and people have been advised to go to Poonch via Mendhar.

Top officers, including those from the NSG and the National Investigation Agency (NIA), have visited the spot over the last two days.

The steel-core bullets used by the terrorists have also been found.

The truck that came under attack was carrying fruits, vegetables and other items to Sangiote village from the Bhimber Gali camp for Iftar to be organised by the Rashtriya Rifles at 7 pm, the officials said.

The slain soldiers were from a Rashtriya Rifles unit deployed for counter-terror operations.

The sources said the attack is suspected to have been carried out by a group of three to four terrorists who probably used a sticky bomb or a grenade due to which the Army truck caught fire.

The attackers possibly spent more than a year in Rajouri and Poonch and had adequate knowledge of the terrain, they added.

The Jammu and Kashmir Gaznavi Force (JKGF) is said to be active in the area and its “commander”, Rafiq Ahmed alias Rafiq Nayi, hails from the region.

Currently, three-four terrorist groups are active in the region of Rajouri and Poonch, the sources said.

The Army said the truck caught fire because of the likely use of grenades.

The Army found bullet marks on the vehicle and the body of a jawan.