3 Cops, 2 Civilians, 2 Militants Killed In Fierce Gun Battle; 12 Injured

20 March 2015
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: In first major terror strike in 20 days old PDP-BJP Government, two fidayeen militants struck at Rajbagh police station on Jammu-Pathankot National Highway (NH) in Kathua district at 6.15 am after trekking nearly 25 kilometers distance on motor-cycle, three-wheeler and Mahindra Load Carrier from the International Border (IB) and killed five persons including two para-military CRPF personnel, two civilians and a police constable before being eliminated by the security forces in about five hours long gun-battle that raged inside the police station, located right on the highway, where train and road traffic remained suspended till the militants were killed and area was sanitized. CRPF 121 battalion Deputy Commandant Pawan Kumar and Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Border Diwakar Singh were among 12 persons injured in the gun battle while fighting with the militants, who were equipped heavily with automatic weapons and large explosive devices, which they used to kill and injure police and CRPF personnel. The injured included eight CRPF jawans, three policemen and a civilian. Just like the previous terror attacks on the National Highways including Hiranagar, Samba and Kathua, it was once again the sordid tale of complete failure of police administration, which failed to check such a long movement of the militants, who managed to reach National Highway, which was about 15 kilometers from the IB and travelled about 10 kilometers more on the highway in hijacked Mahindra Load Carrier, after reportedly infiltrating from Pakistan. Though the BSF had in the past denied that the militants had breached the fencing to cross the IB, the circumstantial evidence once again clearly indicated that the militants had entered from Pakistan as they first appeared at extreme border village of Hariya Chak in Hiranagar sector of Kathua district, killed a bike rider brutally by slitting his throat and tying his arms, hijacked his bike to reach Chadwal, boarded a three-wheeler there and then Mahindra Carrier up to Rajbagh police station. At not even a single place, police or any other security agencies intercepted the militants till they found their way inside Rajbagh police station, located right on the National Highway. Official sources and eyewitnesses told the Excelsior that two militants in BSF fatigues reportedly crossed the International Border somewhere around the midnight and first appeared at border village of Hariya Chak in Hiranagar sector, where they slit the throat of Discover bike rider Joginder Singh, 32, son of Malkeet Singh, a resident of village Jainpur, Narot Jaimal Singh in Pathankot district of Punjab, who was working as Munshi with a private company engaged in construction of railway track beyond Katra. He was returning to duty after leave. They had tied arms of the bike rider before slitting his throat with wire cutter. They took his motor-cycle No. PB35 1976, covered a distance of about eight to 10 kilometers up to village Shapakian, where they abandoned it and reached Chadwal town at around 5.30 am. At Chadwal, they hijacked three-wheeler No. 5795 JK08A and asked its driver Bharat Bushan, a local to take them to an Army camp in Samba. After taking them up to Dayala Chak and realizing the situation, Bushan stopped his three-wheeler on the pretext that he had exhausted entire petrol of his auto. The militants abandoned the auto on the National Highway, crossed the sides and intercepted Himachal Pradesh Mahindra Load Carrier bearing No. 8368 HP38C and asked its driver to move towards the Highway. Another Mahindra Load Carrier No. 0538 HP 38C followed the first Mahindra as both the vehicles were returning after unloading Kinnows at Dayala Chak Fruit Mandi. Two occupants of this vehicle were also taken as hostage by the militants. The militants boarded off Mahindra Load Carrier just 100 meters short of Rajbagh police station, took three occupants of both the vehicles (there was only driver in hijacked Mahindra and two in second Mahindra) as hostage and moved towards the police station. They posed as BSF men and asked Sentry on duty to open gate of Rajbagh police station as they had to handover three thieves to the police station. The Sentry opened the gate but very soon realized the situation after spotting muddy boots of the militants. As he took up his weapon to open firing, both the militants lobbed grenades and opened firing killing Sentry (police constable) on duty Purshotam Lal son of Prakash Chand, a resident of village Bandhoor, Hiranagar. They also fired towards the three hostages killed Mahindra Load carrier driver Randhir Singh son of Jalandhar Singh R-o Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, on spot and injuring driver of second Mahindra vehicle Lakhvir Singh of Mukerian, Punjab. The third civilian survived by running away though the militants fired several shots aiming him. They forced their entry inside the police station lobbying grenades and resorting to heavy firing with automatic weapons. The police and CRPF personnel present inside the police station immediately took positions and retaliated. There was a barrack of CRPF 121 battalion on first floor of Rajbagh police station, all of whom rushed to roof top of the building and challenged the militants, who had hidden themselves and were targeting the CRPF and police personnel. Two CRPF jawans of 121 battalion were killed in the firing. They have been identified as Suraj Prakash son of Mohit Dasrath R-o Sarthool, Maharashtra and Satish Kumar son of Shiv Lal R-o Jind, Haryana. SHO Rajbagh, Satinder Pal Singh was on leave but reached the police station after getting news of the attack. Top officers of Army, BSF, police and civil administration rushed to the spot along with reinforcement. IGP Jammu Danish Rana and DIG Jammu-Kathua range Shakeel Beigh also reached Rajbagh from Jammu. Deputy Commissioner Kathua Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, SSP Kathua Neva Jain, Additional SP Kathua Nissar Ahmad and SDPO Border Diwakar Singh joined the operation. Inspector Harsat and Inspector Sanjeev Kumar from Anti-Fidayeen Cell Jammu and SHO Kathua Sanjeev Slathia along with their teams joined the operation to eliminate the militants. Sources said the first militant was eliminated at around 9 am but the second continued to fight and injured CRPF and police personnel inside the police station before being killed at about 11 am. The operation was over at 11.30 am. SDPO Border Diwakar Singh and CRPF Deputy Commandant of 121 battalion Pawan Kumar, who led the operation from the front, were injured in the exchange of firing. A total of 12 persons including eight CRPF jawans, three police personnel and a civilian were injured in the operation. They included apart from the SDPO and the Deputy Commandant, Head Constable Bhagwan Singh, Mohan Kumar, Raj Kavar, Parveen Kumar, Suraj Romesh, Bharat Prashti and Jhankar Prakash, all CRPF jawans, Prem Singh and Aditya Sharma, PSOs of injured SDPO and the DIG Jammu respectively and civilian Lakhvir Singh of Mukerian, Punjab, who was travelling in hijacked Mahindra Load Carrier. Rajbagh police station was extensively damage in the firing. Entire operation was over at 11.30 am but train and road traffic on Jammu-Pathankot section, which was stopped by police immediately after they got the message of terror strike, was restored around 12.30 pm after the area was sanitized to ensure that there were no more militants in the area. IGP Jammu Zone Danish Rana told the reporters that the militants were in Army fatigues and were neutralized inside Rajbagh police station. He said the past experiences have shown that the militants generally cross during night hours and strike in wee hours of the morning. 'It seems to be a case of fresh infiltration,' Rana said, adding the militants hadn't made anyone hostage inside the police station. Two prisoners in lock-up of Rajbagh police station were safe. Bodies of slain militants were recovered from inside the police station. Both of them were believed to be Pakistanis though their identity hasn't been established. Unlike previous attacks, the militants this time were equipped with more explosive devices than ammunition, which they repeatedly lobbed inside the police station. Recoveries made from the slain militants included two AK-47 rifles with 21 magazines and 156 rounds, 19 live grenades, two wire cutters, two pistols and 61 rounds. Sources said recovery of wire cutters revealed that the militants had used them to cut fencing to enter inside the Indian territory though there was no BSF word on whether the militants had intruded from the IB or not. They also used the cutter to slit throat of bike rider. They didn't use the weapon there as it would have raised an alarm preventing their march to the National Highway. Like all previous attacks, police administration was completely found in slumber with militants covering nearly 25 kilometers distance from the IB to Rajbagh police station on the National Highway changing from one vehicle to another without being intercepted anywhere either by BSF or police unless they struck at the police station. The militants had carried two attacks at Hiranagar and Arnia last year and Hiranagar and Samba in 2013. Sources didn't rule out the possibility of some gaps on the IB, which the militants might be exploiting to cross the border and reach the National Highway. In September 2013 attack, the BSF had categorically denied that the militants had infiltrated from the IB. The militant attack came within days of PDP-BJP Government takeover in Jammu and Kashmir and the State Government's call to the Centre for holding talks with Pakistan and Hurriyat Conference apart from other stakeholders. Meanwhile, body of martyr police constable Purshotam Lal was handed over to his family this evening and was cremated at his native village. Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh and DGP K Rajendra Kumar joined the funeral. Bodies of two civilians, hailing from Punjab and Himachal Pradesh and two CRPF personnel, were in the process of being handed over. Condition of all injured police and CRPF personnel and one civilian was stated to be stable. Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed will tomorrow visit the residence of martyr police constable Purshotam Lal at Bandhoor, Hiranagar to offer condolences to the family members. Major terror attacks since 2013 *On September 26, 2013 three heavily armed ultras killed 10 persons including Lt Col Bikramjeet Singh, three soldiers, four cops and two civilians in twin terror attacks on Hiranagar police station in Kathua and camp of 16 Cavalry of Army at Mahesar in Samba. All three militants were gunned down by the Army commandos. *On March 28, 2014 three ultras staged twin attacks in Janglote in Kathua killing two civilians and a trooper in a day long encounter. All three were killed by the Army. * On November 27, 2014, three militants struck in Arnia killing five civilians and three Army soldiers before being eliminated by the troops. *Only on March 18 this year, Pak Rangers and BSF held a Sector Commander level flag meeting near in Suchetgarh area of RS Pura assuring each other of maintaining peace.