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Kathua ambush: 24 detained as search operation for terrorists continues in dense forests of J-K

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JAMMU, July 10: At least 24 people have been detained for questioning as the hunt for the terrorists behind the ambush in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district, in which five army personnel were killed, entered its third day on Wednesday, officials said.

The search operation by the army and police is underway amid intermittent heavy rain in dense forests across four districts, besides Kathua. It was launched from three different areas — Kathua, Udhampur and Bhaderwah, official said.

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Security forces have detained 24 people for questioning in connection with the ambush, they said, as efforts continued to track down and neutralise the terrorists who are believed to be hiding in a forest.

The officials said another search operation is underway in the higher reaches of Doda district where a gunfight took place between terrorists and security forces on Tuesday evening, a day after the ambush in Kathua.

On the search operation linked to the Kathua ambush, the officials said army and police personnel are also deployed in dense forests in different parts of Udhampur, Samba, Rajouri and Poonch districts.

Fresh searches were also launched in the Lala Chack area of Samba, Manjakote area of Rajouri and Surankote of Poonch on Wednesday morning, they said.

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On Monday, terrorists ambushed a patrol party on the Machedi-Kindli-Malhar mountainous road near Badnota village in Lohai Malhar, around 150 km from the Kathua district headquarters, killing the five army personnel and injuring as many.

From the Bhaderwah side, security personnel are moving cautiously because of the area’s challenging topography, thick foliage and natural caves, the officials said.

Personnel of the army’s special forces “Para” unit have also been deployed to conduct surgical operations in specific areas, they said.

The officials said the search teams are being supported by helicopter and UAV surveillance. In addition, sniffer dogs have been deployed and metal detectors are being used, particularly dense forest areas, of the region.

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They said a team of the National Investigation Agency has visited the scene of the ambush and it is assisting police in the probe.

On the Doda search operation, officials said police and army personnel are combing the Ghadi Bhagwah forest area, which is around 35 km east of Doda town and borders Kishtwar district.

The operation to hunt down two terrorists, who are believed to have suffered injuries in the Tuesday encounter, resumed early Wednesday. The terrorists are yet to be traced, the officials said.

In the backdrop of the ambush in Badnota in Kathua, residents of Badnota village and its adjoining villages said they were concerned about their safety.

They have demanded that village defence groups be sanctioned for their self-defence and to effectively tackle of threats posed by terrorists.

“The government should provide weapons and training to us, we are ready to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with our forces against the terrorists,” Jagdish Raj, a local, said.

Punkaj, a 20-year-old student, said the ambush has caused fear among the local populace but “the situation changes altogether when you have weapons in your hands”.

“We can swiftly move into the forests and help tackle the threat of terrorism,” he said, demanding a special recruitment drive for the local youth of the area.

Shahid Ahmad, who claimed to have moved from the higher reaches to Machedi due to terror threat, said Muslims and Hindus of the area want peace and are ready to assist security forces in wiping out terrorism.

“Our eyes filled with tears with the loss of our soldiers. Such an attack had never happened (here) even during the peak of terrorism over two decades ago,” he said, adding that the government should provide weapons and training to them to fight the menace.

Ahmad said innocent villagers, who have moved with their flocks of livestock to the upper reaches, are compelled to provide food to terrorists as they threatened at gunpoint.

“We are with our forces in the fight against terrorism,” he said. (PTI)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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