It was a bloody Thursday in Jammu Kashmir as the state witnessed three counter terror operations that concluded with the elimination of at least eight terrorists. Three of them were part of Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Operation Jhajjar Kotli lasted several hours in which three terrorists were neutralised and 12 security personnel, including a DSP, injured in the state’s Reasi district.
While intelligence has been working behind the scenes in Jammu and Kashmir, sources in the security grid said the military intelligence did praiseworthy work in tracking down the terrorist by activating their local sources for Operation Jhajjar Kotli.
The cordon and search operation (CASO) to track down the JeM terrorists was launched in the Jhajjar-Kotli forest belt in Reasi district after militants fired at security personnel on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway on Wednesday.
It was late on Wednesday night when a source informed the local Military Intelligence (MI) that the terrorists were possibly inside a house in Tirthi village. The two to three houses that are part of Ward Number 6 in Tirthi belong to people from a minority community.
What raised suspicion was the crying and unusual noises coming from the houses. The local MI unit assessed the input and advised contacting a nearby security forces (SF) column which issued the CASO.
The SF team nearest the house was contacted and shown a path to the exact two-three houses. Once the security team crossed a narrow nullah and started moving towards the houses, terrorists from one of the houses started firing at the security party.
It was later discovered that the terrorists who were on the move forcefully took refuge in a house owned by Ishwar Dass.
Ishwar is a former serviceman in ward number 5 of Jhajjar Kotli. The terrorists demanded food and water. One villager said, “They came to my home at around 8 pm demanding clothes to change from their combat dress. They demanded food and water and left around 9.10 pm.” They soon moved to another residence in ward number 6.
After several hours of gunfire, the three men were neutralised. The forces attempted to capture the third terrorist alive, but he was killed too.
The state has been put on high alert ahead of the urban body polls and panchayat polls in the state. There have been inputs of Pakistani terrorists trying to infiltrate to cause mayhem. CRPF DG RR Bhatnagar said, “We have had eight kills in the state and there has been good coordination between security forces. It is a matter of investigation if the men who came in wanted to disrupt polls. We know however that they were headed towards the valley.”
The police’s and Army’s sources though differ on the sequence of how these foreign terrorists were infiltrated.
Military Intelligence pointed that a group of four to five terrorists had infiltrated past the Lam Battalion in Naushera sector on the night of September 2.
The group traveled in a vehicle till the outskirts of Naushera. On September 4, 2018 they were sighted by some school students at Langar after which a search operation was launched by Jammu and Kashmir Police and the Indian Army.
Sources say once the terrorist were detected, they ran out of options and cancelled their plan to head towards Naushera city. In order to avoid being detected, they moved along Jambhir Nala and reached Bareri.
Five days before the encounter they were spotted and another search operation was swiftly launched following inputs of suspicious movement in Bareri. It is most likely that the group had considered travelling to Lamberi in a vehicle.
On September 9, 2018 the group was reported to be in Lamberi and were waiting for the guide to take them up to Mohar. The exact location of the group was reported by human intelligence (HUMIT) and another search operation was launched.
During the search, the group got split into two sub-groups. One of these sub-groups comprising two terrorists with a mobile phone was able to escape the cordon leaving behind a sub-group of three that had no mobile phone but radio sets.
The cordon was lifted by the evening of September10. Security forces put up stops at roads leading towards Kalakot and Naushera. An urgent assessment was conducted as it was suspected that by this time the group had started moving towards Nihari Tawi river.
At this time PARA was launched. However it is believed that the group of three had left the place by then. Based on an intercept received, it was assessed that the sub-group would have boarded a vehicle for Jammu based on some light signal.
Another intercept suggests they were instructed to move towards 10 Infantry Division. After reaching Jammu early on 12th morning, the group, sources said, seem to have boarded a civil truck with the number plate JK 03F 1476 and paid Rs 20,000 to the driver to ferry the armed men ahead.
The group was sighted at a Dhaba. The Truck was subsequently intercepted at “Nakka” near Jhajjar Kotli, which finally led to the terrorists’ end game.
But police sources have another assessment. According to top cops, the infiltration took place on the night of September 11 between Kathua and Sambha. The terrorists reached National Highway near Chal Dayala and were picked up by the truck.
On September 12 at about eight o clock in the morning a police party signaled a truck with the number plate JK03-1476 which was on its way from Jammu to Srinagar to stop.
Three terrorists who were boarding the truck opened fire. The truck driver was brother to one of the dead terrorists and was an over ground worker himself. The truck took them ahead as a new bus driver and conductor took over the vehicle near Ban Toll.
Then they stopped at Jhajjar-Kotli to have breakfast when a cop came to check the truck as part of a routine practice. The terrorists panicked, opened fire and fled the spot. Security forces used drones and choppers during the operation to track the three JeM terrorists who were between the ages of 18 and 22 years.
Meanwhile in Sopore, two foreign militants were killed in a fierce encounter. Ali alias Athar and Zia ur Rehman were important commanders of JEM and have been active since 2014.
Ali is said to be mastermind of the Sopore IED blast in which four Jammu and Kashmir Police personnel were martyred in January this year.
Meanwhile three other militants were killed in an encounter along the Line of Control (LoC) in Keran sector of North Kashmir’s Kupwara district on Thursday morning.