A Fidayeen attack was averted by two Jammu Kashmir Policemen when they intercepted a group of three heavily-armed militants along the Jammu-Srinagar Highway in Jhajjar Kotli Wednesday morning.
The two J&K Police personnel, according to sources, were heading for their duty when they noticed a suspiciously parked truck bearing registration number JK03F-1476 near Sai Cafeteria in Jhajjar Kotli around 7:50 am.
“The policemen went to the restaurant and asked the truck driver what he had loaded in the truck which was covered with a polythene sheet,” sources said.
They said the militants and truck driver apprehended that their plan had been exposed and one of the militants fired from inside the truck before fleeing from there, wounding a forest guard in the wrist.
The gunfire created scare among the locals and shopkeepers who ran for shelter, when three militants who were hiding inside the truck and two others including truck driver and conductor, escaped from the spot.
The locals followed the truck driver and conductor and over powered both at a distance, while the two policemen informed Police department about presence of militants in Jhajjar Kotli.
Within no time, the vehicular traffic on Sriangar-Jammu highway was stopped for a few hours and massive deployment of Police, CRPF and Army was made and they conducted a joint search operation throughout the day in the vast forest area and villages.
The truck carrying militants was on its way toward Kashmir from Samba but security agencies have not ruled out about “possible militants attack on Northern Command in Udhampur”.
During the 14-hours long search operation, no contact with militants was established by the government forces.
Police have advised people to avoid roaming and to remain locked in their respective houses while the government forces have cordoned off entire Jhajjar Kotli, Tikkri (Udhampur) adjoining area of Katra and Srinagar-Jammu highway.
Army choppers were pressed into service, and drones were used to locate the position of hiding militants in the forests, while sniffer dogs joined in the patrolling parties of the government forces in Jhajjar Kotli and its villages.
Later, two units of Paratroopers of the Army were also called-in to locate and kill the hiding militants.
Police have sent the Kashmir-based truck driver and conductor to Joint Interrogation Centre (JIC) for their interrogation while a bag with one AK-47 rifle, its three magazines, and grenades was seized from Jhajjar Kotli and the truck was also seized by the Police.
It was learnt that the escaped group of militants (age group between 18 to 22 years) with bags had two AK rifles, ammunition and one militant had pistol, and two of them were wearing pants-shirts and one was in Pathan suit.
Meanwhile, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Jammu Zone, S D Singh Jamwal, SSP Jammu Vivek Gupta and SSP Udhampur Rayees Bhat also rushed to the spot to took stock of the situation while MLA Nagrota Devinder Singh Rana also went to Jhajjar Kotli.
Defence sources said the three militants had infiltrated from Pakistan after they sneaked in across the International Border in Samba.
“The truck, which was loaded with wall putty, allegedly waited for Pakistani militants at Dayala Chak (Samba). They boarded the truck from there and started their journey toward their target (somewhere in Kashmir or Northern Command Headquarters in Udhampur),” the sources said.
Speaking to media persons, Jamwal said, “We have taken all precaution to avoid civilian casualty during search operation due to the dense forest in Jhajjar Kotli.”
“We have made additional deployment on all the cordons and vigil on escape routes has been increased. Till now, there is no cross firing. Our first priority is to avoid the loss of civilian life and to ensure the militants may not escape,” he said. “We have got some leads from the interrogation of detained Kashmir-based truck driver and another man (conductor).”
According to an eyewitness, the militants and truck driver asked Sai Cafeteria to prepare breakfast for them (three parantas) at Jhajjar Kotli when they parked their vehicle outside the restaurant.
The driver, a resident of Anantnag and conductor came out of truck while three militants remained sited behind where wall putty was loaded.
“The truck driver and conductor ordered breakfast for them. The breakfast was prepared and they were about to start eating when one of the policemen approached the driver questioning him what he had loaded in the truck which was covered under a polythene bag,” eyewitnesses said.
The driver had also ordered eight prantas (breakfast) for three militants but before it could be taken, their plan was exposed, compelling them to flee from the spot.
For the past one week, Army and other security agencies had launched massive searches in some of the areas of Rajouri like Nowshera, Lambedi.
“Five to six villages of Nowshera were searched by the Army after locals informed about some suspicious movement. Another search operation was launched in Lambedi area of Rajouri district. For two days, the searches continued. Today, the search operation was called off,” the sources said.