Search operation in J-K’s Rajouri still underway: Army officer

Search operation in J-K’s Rajouri still underway: Army officer

Rajouri/Jammu, Nov 24 (PTI) The Army on Friday said the search operation in the forest area of Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri to flush out any hiding terrorists was still underway, a day after two foreign terrorists of proscribed Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) outfit including the mastermind behind various attacks were eliminated.

Commander of 14 Sector Rashtriya Rifles Brigadier Soumeet Patnaik informed that security forces safely evacuated trapped civilians, including women and children, from the scene of the encounter and paid rich tributes to the five fallen soldiers, saying “their sacrifice for the country gives us the motivation to finish off terrorism.” Five army personnel - Capt M V Pranjal, Capt Shubham Gupta, Hav Abdul Majid, Lance Naik Sanjay Bisht and Paratrooper Sachin Laur – laid down their lives in the gunfight in Dharmsal belt’s Bajimaal forest area.

Capt Pranjal, who led a search party, faced heavy fire as he came out from his security cover to help trapped women and children flee to safety while continuing to engage the terrorists along with his team to ensure that they did not escape, according to Brigadier Patnaik.

Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander Quari, who masterminded several attacks including the killing of 10 civilians and five army personnel, and his associate were killed in the two-day encounter which ended on Thursday afternoon.

“The encounter has ended but the search of the forest area (to flush out any other hiding terrorist) is still underway,” Brig Patnaik, flanked by other army and police officers including Deputy Superintendent of Police, operations, Shammi Kumar, told reporters at Rashtriya Rifles headquarters in Kalakote.

Briefing the media, he said the operation was an example of synergy between various security agencies on the ground and “this synergy will continue for more success”.

Brig Patnaik described the killing of the two foreign terrorists as a major success for the security forces as Quari was a “trained sniper and IED (Improvised Explosive Device) expert who was trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan'. He masterminded civilian killings including that of Dhangri (on January 1) and five security personnel in Kandi.

“The recovery of huge quantity of arms and ammunition from the slain terrorists indicates that they were in the area to step up terrorist activities and create fear among the local populace,” he said.

He said credible information was received on November 19 about the presence of two terrorists in Kalakote and accordingly all security agencies were activated.

At 8.30 am, a search operation was launched in the forest area around some dhoks (mud houses). The search party led by Captain Pranjal came under heavy fire from the hiding terrorists, he said.

The officer said Captain Pranjal came out from his security cover to help trapped women and children flee to safety while continuing to engage the terrorists along with his team to ensure that they did not escape.

The other columns which were also operation ready were launched to join Captain Pranjal who, in the meanwhile, received a bullet in his head and sacrificed his life, he said, adding the terrorists taking advantage of undergrowth, boulders and difficult terrain moved inside the forest.

The brigadier said three more soldiers were fatally injured when the special forces and others came close to the terrorists inside the forest.

“The cordon was further tightened and throughout the night, UAVs, night-enabled cameras and other modern equipment were pressed into service to keep a close watch on the area.

'The next day at around 7.40 am, one of the terrorists tried to break the cordon but was engaged by paratrooper Sachin who also got injured and later succumbed,” he said.

He said at around 1.30 pm on November 23, the second terrorist was also eliminated.

“We are very proud of them (fallen soldiers). They fought well and they fought very hard, they fought for their brothers. They gave their lives for their country and it gives us the motivation to continue the operations to finish terrorism,” the officer said.

He said Lance Naik Bisht had also taken part in an encounter with terrorists in Budhal area of Rajouri on November 17 that had left one terrorist dead.

J-K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General Upendra Dwivedi, army officers and police on Friday paid floral tributes to the five soldiers.

The mortal remains of the personnel were brought to the Army General Hospital in Jammu from Rajouri where a wreath-laying ceremony was organised.

The coffins were airlifted to their native places from Jammu for their last rites, officials said. PTI COR/TAS TAS RT RT

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