5 Army Jawans Killed, One Injured In BAT Attack On LoC In Poonch

5 Army Jawans Killed, One Injured In BAT Attack On LoC In Poonch

6 August 2013
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: In second major attack on Army this year, a Border Action Team (BAT) reportedly comprising members of different militant outfits mainly Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Pakistan Army jawans, ambushed an Indian Army patrol in Sarla battalion area at Chakan-Da-Bagh sub sector, about 10 kilometers from Poonch at 1 am today killing five soldiers and injuring another. The BAT, which carried out the attack in Pakistan Army uniform after intruding about half a kilometer inside the Indian territory, returned to their camp at Gurand in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) from where they had set in for the attack with active connivance of 801 Mujahid Regiment of Pakistan. In all, about 20 members of the BAT including some commandos of Special Service Group (SSG) were involved in the attack. Army chief Gen Bikram Singh, who monitored the situation in New Delhi today, is flying to Poonch tomorrow to visit the spot, review scenario on the Line of Control (LoC) and devise a strategy to give effective response to Pakistan following outrage over the attack all across the country including Jammu and Kashmir. Cross-LoC trade and travel on Poonch-Rawlakote and Uri-Muzaffarabad road between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan occupied Kashmir has been suspended for two weeks. Official sources told the Excelsior that an area domination patrol party of six Army jawans of 21 Bihar and 14 Maratha Light Infantry was patrolling forward area on the LoC between Cheeta and Begum Posts in Sarla battalion area of Chakan-Da-Bagh sub sector in Poonch district at 1 am when they were surrounded from all sides at 1 am by at least 20 members Border Action Team (BAT), which mainly comprised Lashkar-e-Toiba militants commandos of Pakistan’s Special Service Group, Pakistan Army and other militant outfits, who were well trained in “kill and run operations’’. The 14 Maratha Light Infantry is scheduled to replace 21 Bihar in the area in the next few days. The BAT team, which was in Pakistan Army uniforms, had already laid ambush for the Army patrol about 500 meters inside the Indian territory. It rained bullets from automatic weapons on the Army jawans on observing their movement. Before the troops could realize the situation, they were trapped and five of them were killed on spot. One of the soldiers, who had taken position at a height, survived with injuries. The attack lasted just five minutes. The BAT members retreated to Gurand camp, from where they had set-in. Sources didn’t rule out the involvement of some jawans of Pakistan’s 801 Mujahid Regiment deployed across Chakan-Da-Bagh in the attack as it comprised a number of Balouch jawans, who were known for “hit and run attacks’’. Army jawans killed in the attack have been identified as Naik Prem Nath Singh, 35, a resident of Chapra, Bihar, Lance Naik Shambu Saran Ray, 29, R-o Bhojpur, Bihar, Sepoy Vijay Kumar Ray, 27 R-o Patna, Bihar, Sepoy Raghunandan Prasad, 23 R-o Chapra, Bihar, all belonging to 21 Bihar and Naik Pundalik Mane Kerba, 36, R-o Kolhapur, Maharashtra of 14 Maratha Light Infantry. Injured Army jawan was identified as Sambhaji Kuttey, a resident of Kolhapur, Maharashtra and affiliated with 14 Maratha Light Infantry. Sources said the border patrol party of Indian Army lost contact with its united at about 1.15 am. Army sent a patrol in the area at 5.30 am, which spotted the bodies of five soldiers and saw another jawan lying in an injured condition. Troops from the nearby posts immediately rushed to the spot after getting report of the killings and cordoned off the area. As the report of the killings spread, senior Army officers from Poonch also rushed to the spot. Troops conducted searches in the area but the attackers had managed to escape back to PoK taking cover of darkness and adverse weather condition in the area. The Army kept the area sealed till this morning before allowing police and media persons. Bodies of the jawans were shifted to Military Hospital, Poonch. SSP Poonch Shamsheer Hussain arranged a team of civil surgeons and got post-mortem on the bodies conducted in the Military Hospital itself. The injured jawan was airlifted to Command Hospital in Udhampur. The bodies were shifted to Poonch Brigade Headquarters this evening where Army officers and senior officers of civil administration, police and jawans paid tributes to them at 7.30 pm. Brig Sunil Kumar Acharya led the Army officers in laying wreaths on the bodies of martyrs. Col TDS Bhal, Col Vishal Sharma and 21 Bihar Commanding Officer also paid the tributes to the jawans. Wreaths were also laid on behalf of GOC-in-C Northern Command Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra and GOC 16 Corps Lt Gen DS Hooda. The bodies will be flown to native Bihar and Maharashtra tomorrow morning for last rites with full military honours. Sources said in total at least 20 members of the BAT were involved in the attack. The BAT is generally part of the LeT outfit but it carried actions on the areas close to the LoC with full assistance of Pakistan Army, Special Service Group, militants and guides of other outfits. They added that the BAT choose the extreme dark hours, adverse weather conditions and the area with thick vegetation and dense forests to carry out “hit and run attack’’, which might have been completed in 5 to 7 minutes to ensure that before Indian troops from other areas retaliated, the BAT members are back. Excelsior had exclusively reported about the activation of BAT by the Pakistan Army and the LeT on the LoC opposite Poonch sector last month. Army chief Gen Bikram Singh, who was reportedly in touch with Northern Command chief Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra and GOC 16 Corps Lt Gen DS Hooda, is flying to Poonch tomorrow morning and would visit the LoC including the site of killings of the Army soldiers. He would review the situation with top Army Commanders in Poonch to devise strategy to prevent recurrence of such incidents in future and give effective response to misadventure of Pakistan Army, which led to countrywide condemnations and anger right from the common man to top political leadership. Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia will speak to his counterpart in Pakistan Maj Gen Asfaque Nadeem to raise the issue of killing of the five Indian soldiers tomorrow. The Army Chief is scheduled to visit the Division headquarters in Rajouri and the 93 Brigade headquarters to take stock of the security situation there. He is also expected to meet the Commanding Officer and troops of the units whose troops were killed in Pakistan’s Border Area Team action, sources said. They added that 21 Bihar unit is on its way out of the area after a tenure of over two years and the 14 Maratha Light Infantry battalion will take over the position from it. Army officials said the DGMO will raise with his Pakistani counterpart the issue of killing of Indian soldiers. The DGMOs of the two sides regularly talk to each other on every Wednesday. The attack has taken place around 30-35 km from the site of last attack at Mankote on January 8 where one Indian soldier was beheaded and another’s body was mutilated. After the incident in January, the Army Chief had said that India reserved the right to retaliate “at a place and time of our choosing”. Gen Singh has also asked the commanders deployed on the LoC to respond immediately in case of provocations by Pakistan Army and had said : “I expect my commanders to be aggressive in the face of firing”. Sources said the BAT members along with Pakistan Army jawans, all of whom were wearing Pakistan Army uniforms, had intruded about half kilometers inside the Indian territory to execute the killings. They picked the unmanned area, which appeared that they had been maintaining vigil in the area and might have conducted recee earlier also. They picked up the time of midnight when it was extreme dark and weather was also harsh. Moreover, there was quite gap between two forward Indian posts, as such, the jawans didn’t hear the gun shots. There were reports that the BAT members might have used silencer fitted weapons. The latest attack by BAT and Pakistan Army came just a little less than seven months when they had intruded deep inside the Indian territory at Mankote in Mendhar sector of Poonch and killed two jawans. They had beheaded the jawan and took head of one of them along with them to Pakistan. The incident had taken place on January 8. At a press conference in Northern Command in June few days before his retirement, former Northern Army Commander Lt Gen KT Parnaik had said that Army had given very effective response to the killings of two Army jawans. However, he hadn’t elaborated. After Mankote, Pakistan Army had twice intercepted porters hired by Army and BSF in Sabjian and Mendhar sectors. In one of the attacks, they had killed a porter and injured another while in the first attack they had snatched belongings of the porters and warned them against venturing into the area again. It was way back in February 2000 when then HUJI commander and Pakistan Army commando Ilyas Kashmiri, now an al-Qaeda (though some agencies claimed that Kashmiri is dead) operative had intruded inside the Indian territory in Nowshera sector of Rajouri district and taken away the head of Sepoy Bhausaheb Maruti Talekar of 17 Maratha Light Infantry. Some Army jawans were killed in the attack. Meanwhile, suspension of cross-LoC trade for two weeks (the current and next week) well in advance on Thursday last by the PoK authorities indicated that the BAT attack might have been pre-planned. Sources said generally on all major festivals like Eid and Diwali, the cross-LoC trade on both routes including Poonch-Rawlakote and Uri-Muzaffarabad is suspended for two days or at the most one week. This time, however, the Trade Facilitation authorities at Uri as well as Poonch had received official letters from PoK Trade Authorities last Thursday that there would be no trade on the two routes for two weeks. “This indicated that Trade Authorities had been sounded by Pakistan Army well in advance about the action and that was why they had stopped the trade. Further, the areas where five Army jawans were killed also fell in Chakan-Da-Bagh sub sector, a route taken for cross-LoC trade on Poonch-Rawlakote. “We had requested the Pakistan authorities that the cross-LoC trade-travel holiday should be for 2-3 days but on August 1, they sent a letter saying there will be no trade-travel between August 6 and 18,’’ Mohammad Bashir Lone, Custodian Cross LoC Trade-Travel, Chakan-Da-Bagh, Poonch said. Lone said that last cross-LoC trade took place on August 2 and crossing on August 5. He added that resumption of trade and travel through Chakan-Da-Bagh after the holidays are over will be decided by the higher ups of the Government. Sources said Pakistan Army had resorted to ceasefire violations 57 times on the LoC in 2013. Of them, six violations were reported during last just five days. Three ceasefire violations were also reported on the International Border at Hiranagar, Samba and RS Pura sectors during past just about one week. PRO (Defence) Jammu SN Acharya said the number of infiltration attempts by the militants, mostly backed by Pakistan Army, have doubled this year so far as compared to the corresponding period last year. “There had been 57 cease fire violations this year, which were 80 per cent more than the last year during the corresponding period last year,’’ Mr Acharya said, adding that the Indian Army has successfully eliminated 19 hardcore terrorists in the recent months of July and ongoing days of August this year along the LoC and hinterland in J&K, which had frustrated Pakistan Army as well as militant group. “The effective Counter Infiltration Grid on the LoC has ensured that 17 infiltrations bids were foiled this year,’’ Mr Acharya said. Among the recent infiltration attempts on July 27, a BSF jawan was injured when Pakistani troops violated ceasefire twice in the space of 10 hours by targeting Indian posts along the Indo-Pak border in Poonch and Hiranagar sectors. The Pakistani troops had used mortars, RPGs and heavy machine guns leading to heavy firing exchanges. On July 3, Pakistan violated ceasefire when it fired on cops, who had gone to LoC in Sabjian, Poonch to collect the body of a Pakistani intruder killed in an IED blast on July 1. Pakistani troops fired on troops trying to evacuate injured porters after two were killed in IED attack by Pakistani militants along LoC in Poonch on July 8. On July 12, Pakistani Rangers fired on Indian forward posts in Pindi belt along International Border (IB) in Jammu district. Pakistani troops opened small arms firing on Indian posts in forward area along LoC in Poonch district on the night of July 22. Meanwhile, people living in the forward areas along the LoC in twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri were apprehensive that peace could suffer due to provocations by Pakistan Army and the militants. They condemned Pakistan Army and militants for their unprovoked acts of firing and demanded an immediate end to it. They were of the view that firing by the Pakistani troops could vitiate the peaceful atmosphere and spoil the ceasefire, which had come into force in November 2003.