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4 terrorists travelling to Kashmir killed in ‘chance encounter’ in Jammu: Police

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Jammu: Four heavily-armed terrorists, travelling in a truck to Kashmir were killed in a “chance encounter” with security forces here on Wednesday, a police officer said, terming it a “major success” ahead of Republic Day.

The truck driver, however, escaped from the scene and efforts are on to nab him, Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), Jammu zone, Mukesh Singh said.

He said the gunfight took place around 7.30 am amid dense fog near Tawi Bridge in the Sidhra bypass area along the Jammu-Srinagar national highway.

“Bodies of four terrorists have been recovered from the truck. Seven AK assault rifles, one M4 rifle, three pistols and a large quantity of ammunition were also seized from their possession,” Singh, flanked by General Officer Commanding of Army’s Tiger Division, Maj Gen Gaurav Gautam, told reporters at the scene of the gunfight.

He said the interception of the terrorists was the result of “high alert” of security agencies following the recent recovery of arms from a truck in Narwal bypass area of Jammu.

“All the material recovered from the possession of the (slain) terrorists is being scrutinised and analysed. We are not aware of the group… whether they came from across the border or not, is a matter of investigation. The only thing we can tell right now is that the truck was going from Jammu towards Srinagar side,” the ADGP said.

Referring to the arrest of three operatives of proscribed Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) outfit and recovery of a huge quantity of arms and ammunition from an oil tanker in Narwal bypass in November, he said the incident had put the security agencies on high alert.

“The army, police and the CRPF, all of us together were on high alert (following the recovery) in the run up to the January 26 celebrations. The border grid has also been strengthened, and (security) camps have been made more secure. This is how we have been able to neutralise them,” Singh asserted.

Asked if the group was sent by Pakistan-based JeM commander Ashiq Nengroo whose house built on encroached government land was demolished in Pulwama district recently, he said, “We are not aware of any connection of this group with Nengroo so far.”

“The group affiliation and identity of the deceased terrorists is awaited,” he said.

Responding to another question about any intelligence input suggesting attempts by terrorists to infiltrate into this side by taking advantage of foggy weather conditions, the officer said there was no specific input about the crossings from the Pakistan side.

He said it was a joint operation by the Army and police after suspicious movement of the truck was noted. “The vehicle was followed and stopped near Sidhra check-point, but its driver escaped on the pretext of attending the call of nature.”

Getting suspicious, Singh said police started searching the truck, but came under heavy fire from the terrorists hiding inside, triggering the gunfight.

Maj Gen Gautam said a clear picture would emerge after the next couple of hours and “we will be able to share more details”.

“Nothing can be said accurately about the plans of the terrorists. It can be a possibility and we have to remain alert to meet any challenge,” the Army officer said on increased terrorist activities with focus on Jammu region.

Earlier, talking to PTI, Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbag Singh said so far three terrorists have been killed. “The number could be more,” he added.

Asked whether the terrorists came from across the border and were picked by the truck driver to ferry them to Kashmir, he said it is a matter of investigation.

Officials said the intense firing between the two sides lasted for over 45 minutes during which several explosions apparently caused by hurling of grenades were heard.

“Preliminary investigation suggested that the group might have infiltrated from across the border,” they said, adding that the “recovery of the M4 rifle is indicative that some top terrorist commander, most probably of JeM, was also among those killed in the gunfight.”

Smoke was seen blowing from the truck, loaded with husk, and was completely damaged in the gunfight.

Several fire tenders and an earth mover were pressed into service to douse the flames and search the truck, which was kept under constant drone surveillance.

Meanwhile, traffic on the Sidhra bypass road was restored after remaining closed for over six hours.

Officials added that forensic experts also visited the scene and collected samples for analysis.

Truck carrying terrorists had fake number plate: ADGP

Security stepped up in Jammu

The truck which was carrying the four heavily armed terrorists, who were killed by security forces on Wednesday morning, had a fake registration plate and tampered engine and chassis numbers, Additional Director General of Police, Jammu Zone, Mukesh Singh said.

“The number plate of the truck has been found to be fake. The engine and chassis number has also been tampered and help of forensic teams will be sought in this regard,” the Jammu police chief said.

“Other scientific and electronic evidence is being collected to identify the terror group behind the transportation of the terrorists and to identify the Over Ground Workers (OGW) support structure of the terrorists (in Jammu region),” he said.

An FIR has also been registered in connection with the encounter, the officer said.

Meanwhile, security has been put on high alert across the Jammu region, particularly on the highway.

The counter infiltration grid has been put on high alert and security has been tightened in the region’s border areas, officials said.

Tight security arrangements have been put in place and vehicles are being checked to ensure fool-proof security in the Jammu and Kashmir winter capital, they said.

Security checkpoints on the Jammu-Pathankot national highway have increased vigilance and vehicles, particularly trucks, are being checked, they said.

All entry points to Jammu from the border areas have been put on vigil and vehicles entering the city are being thoroughly checked.

Spotlight again on demand for vehicle scanners on highways

With yet another incident of terrorists trying to sneak into Kashmir by hiding in a truck, security experts have batted strongly for the installation of vehicle scanners along the highways.

“Four heavily-armed terrorists, travelling in a truck to Kashmir after infiltrating from Pakistan, were killed in a ‘chance encounter’ with security forces here early Wednesday morning,” police said.

The gunfight took place around 7.30 am amid dense fog near Tawi Bridge in the Sidhra bypass area along the Jammu-Srinagar national highway

It is a “major challenge” for security forces which have foiled over a dozen such bids on national highways in Jammu and Kashmir by eliminating several terrorists and recovering large quantities of weapons and explosive material during the past few years.

“There is a long pending demand of security forces to install full body vehicle scanners along the highway,” security expert and retired army officer Brig Anil Gupta said.

He said that in the absence of such scanners, one cannot check each and every truck.

Brig Gupta, who served at the Nagrota-based 16 Corps headquarters, said the “loophole is being exploited by terrorists and their supporters”.

“I think the only solution to this is to have full body scanners installed at various locations along highways with checking made mandatory for vehicles,” he said.

Police had on November 10 busted a terror module of Jaish-e-Mohammad and arrested three operatives from the Narwal area, recovering arms and ammunition including three AK-56 rifles, one pistol, nine magazines and six grenades from a Kashmir-bound truck.

On April 22, police arrested two persons including the driver of a truck who had ferried terrorists in a truck from the International Border of village Supwal in Samba district to Sunjuwan where they carried out a terror attack in which two terrorists and one CISF officer were killed and four security personnel were injured.

Four suspected Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists, who were hiding in a truck, were killed on November 17, 2020 in an encounter with security forces on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway near Nagrota in the outskirts of Jammu city.

Three Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militants were killed on January 31, 2020 in a gunbattle that broke out after a group of terrorists, travelling in a truck, opened fire at a police team at a toll plaza on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway on the outskirts of Jammu city.

Former Director General of Police S P Vaid pointed out that a whole network is involved in such activities and poses a major challenge for security agencies.

“It is a very big security challenge for the forces. They (terrorists) are always desperate to cross the border and do some big terror act. It is a full ring to get them across the border and then pick them up in trucks and take them to destinations,” Vaid said.

He said that dozens of such incidents in which terrorists were ferried in trucks have taken place in the last couple of years.

“It is their plan to cross the border in Kathua, Samba and Hiranagar during foggy weather and they are picked up by some people (truckers). It is difficult to cross the border during snow in winter in Kashmir,” he said.

He also batted strongly for putting scanners to check vehicles.

Speaking in the same vein, another former DGP and former intelligence chief Kuldeep Khoda said that this is not the first time trucks have been used to carry out terror attacks and ferry terrorists to the Valley.

“They can upgrade it (security setup and body scanners). Militants come through tunnels also. They get bypassed through air and underground (on the borders),” Khoda said.

“You cannot think of such intelligence in which every such movement can be known in advance.  It is not possible to get information about all the movements. Some of the movements can go unnoticed,” the former DGP said, adding that upgrading technology will help the forces.

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