Kathua anti-militancy operations stepped up; attackers elusive

Soldiers stand next to a vehicle after an attack by suspected militants on an Indian Army convoy in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir, on July 9, 2024.
| Photo Credit: Reuters

An extensive anti-militancy operation of the security forces, backed by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and choppers, on Tuesday failed to re-establish contact with the hiding militants who attacked an Army convoy on Monday, leaving five soldiers dead. Meanwhile, another group of militants was spotted in the higher reaches of Jammu’s Doda district.

The Army’s 9 Corps, which comes under the Western Command, was joined by the Jammu and Kashmir police’s Special Operations Group in Kathua’s Badnota village to track down the attackers, who, in a deadly attack, managed to hit 10 soldiers with bullet wounds and shrapnel injuries on Monday afternoon. The Monday attack was the first in many decades that took place in the jurisdiction of the Western Command.

The circle of operation was widened to the upper reaches of Kindli, Daggar and Bani areas of Kathua. Simultaneous anti-militancy operations have been launched in adjoining districts of Udhampur, Reasi and Doda.

Official sources said the militants, whose numbers remain unascertained, used sophisticated weapons, including armour-piercing bullets in the attack. The modus operandi adopted by the ultras is the same as employed in at least three attacks in the Rajouri-Poonch belt since 2021, where attackers tracked the movement of vulnerable non-bullet military vehicles and chose narrow tracks and thick forest areas to mount a surprise attack from two sides, especially aiming at the driver of the vehicle, the sources said.

Meanwhile, the security forces failed to re-establish contact with the militants in Kathua in spite of putting into service UAVs and choppers to scan the dense forest cover and undulating topography, which the militants are using as a shield. 

The attack spot was also scanned by sniffer dogs to gather clues and track the movement of the militants. A special unit of para commandos was airdropped in certain pockets to encircle the hiding militants. 

Aerial survey

Top police officials, including Director General of Police R.R. Swain and Additional Director General of Police Anand Jain, carried out an aerial survey of the attack site. Officials said security in Kathua had been reviewed.

Meanwhile, an Army spokesman said, “The Army and the Western Command salute the bravery and supreme sacrifice of five soldiers in the Kathua sector, while fighting the scourge of terrorism. The Army Commander and all ranks stand in solidarity with bereaved families.”

The spokesman said a joint operation “was in progress” in Kathua.

The Army also airlifted the bodies of the deceased soldiers from Kathua. The Army identified the deceased soldiers as Havildar Satpal Singh, Naik Prem Singh, Lance Naik Shish Ram, Sepoy Rajendra Singh and Sepoy Kamal Dev.

Encounter in Doda

In Jammu’s Chenab Valley, a joint party of the police and the Army on Tuesday spotted another group of militants and engaged them in a firefight.

Officials said the group was active in Goli-Gadi forests in the upper reaches of Doda. The encounter continued till late Tuesday evening.

Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed five militancy-related incidents in the past three days, which left seven soldiers and six militants dead.

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