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Troops go all-out to smash Poonch-Rajouri module of 3 Pak-based terrorists

Troops on a terror hunt in Poonch-Rajouri sector

In the wake of some fresh terror threats and a propaganda video made on the Bhimber Gali attack of 20 April, security and intelligence agencies have launched a combing operation on the Pir Panjal mountains to destroy the guerrilla hideouts claimed to have been established there. Three particular terrorists of Jammu, currently in Pakistan, are believed to have helped some Pakistani cadres in setting up bases besides planning and executing five major attacks in Poonch and Rajouri districts.

As many as 24 soldiers have been killed in the five meticulously planned and executed strikes since October 2021 in which the terrorists made good their escape without suffering any damage. It was only in one fidayeen attack at an Army camp at Pargal in Rajouri that two suicide bombers were eliminated in December 2022.

The three local terror functionaries, who are believed to have helped their Pakistani associates of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) to execute at least four major strikes have been identified as Riyaz Ahmad aka Qasim of Mahore, Reasi district, Rafiq Nayi of Mendhar, Poonch district, and Mohammad Amin aka Khubaib aka Haroon of Thathri, Doda district.

All resources have been mobilised to identify and arrest the associates of the three dreaded terrorists who have been already declared as “most wanted terrorists” under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other laws by the Union and the Union Territory Governments.

The trio is reportedly well-versed with the terrain and possesses the capacity of establishing bases in a hilly triangle between Rajouri, Reasi and Shopian districts. Two decades back this area witnessed massive search operations and encounters under Operation Hill Kaka.

Twenty terrorists were eliminated at Khari Dhok, in the Hill Kaka bowl on 15 July 2001 while 21 more were killed at Mukhri in the same forest and rugged terrain on 1 November 2001. In all, around 100 terrorists were wiped out in what was officially named as ‘Operation Sarp Vinash’. At several places, the slain terrorists were found to have set up caves and concrete bunkers which were all destroyed.

In the propaganda videos and tweets, the JeM front ‘Peoples Anti-Fascist Front’ (PAFF) has claimed to have lured the troops into the forest and targeted them as per the group’s planning. The group has threatened “more such actions”, claiming that it had created “several slaughter zones” in the area where 5 soldiers were killed in an ambush on 5 May.

Security and intelligence officials insist that creation of Hill Kaka-type caves and concrete bunkers was “nothing but a hollow claim”. Nevertheless, they say, there could be some “makeshift hideouts” which would be destroyed in the coming weeks. According to them, the total number of the terrorists, who could include some serving or retired Pakistani soldiers or the foreigners trained by them, is “less than a dozen”. Some of the officials also suspect the engagement of some South Kashmir-based cadres with the Poonch-Rajouri strikes.

Qasim, Nayi and Khubaib are currently said to be operating from Pakistan. Officials believe they were instrumental in creating a “local support base” for the foreign terrorists in Rajouri and Poonch using their past connections in the two districts.

“Troops are engaged in clearing the forests with the help of paramilitary forces and local police. Para commandos are actively involved in the operations now. Helicopters and drones are also being used and will continue to be in use till all the terrorists involved in the two recent strikes are neutralised”, said an official. According to him the terror cadres from Pakistan or the Kashmir valley could not have executed these strikes without active local support.

Those under scanner include some local clerics and a madrasa network of Deobandi school of thought operating in Jammu, Rajouri, Poonch and some other districts. Some of the suspects have been called for questioning or interrogated over the last two weeks. Security forces with the help of Central agencies and the UT Police are trying to know whether the terrorists had dumped their food and logistics at their hideouts on the mountains or the same were being provided by their local support structure.

Also Read: Is Pakistan underestimating New India’s resolve by upending terror in Kashmir ahead of G-20 meet?