Its not over till its all over is an old adage which may be aptly applied to militancy in J & K given the Bhata Dhurian ambush.
Terrorist attacks will continue exploiting gap in security given complex dynamics of support to terrorism by Pakistan, local factors and operational challenges despite the low level of violence. In a major set back to security forces, five soldiers of the Army’s Rashtriya Rifles were killed and another was gravely wounded after terrorists ambushed in Bhata Dhurian in Poonch district of J&K’s Jammu division on April 21.
A preliminary probe has revealed that the truck was on its way to Sangiote from Bhimber Gali to transport fruits and other eatables for an iftar party that was supposed to be hosted by the Army’s Rashtriya Rifles unit at 7pm that evening. The attack was carried out in TotaGali between Bhimber Gali and BhataDhurian.
Terrorists brought the truck to a halt with grenades and then targeted its fuel tank, setting off a massive blaze in which the unfortunate soldiers succumbed.
How and Who Carried out the Ambush
After detailed investigations by the Police and other agencies, Director General of Police (DGP), J&K, Dilbag Singh said on April 28 that the April 21 attack in Bhata Durian area of Poonch in which five soldiers were killed was carried out with the support of some locals and terrorists had used steel-coated armour-piercing bullets and IEDs to target army vehicle to inflict maximum damage.
“Same bullets were used in the Dhangri, Rajouri attack. The Poonch attack was carried out near a forest area. Initial investigations suggest that the terrorists may have used natural hideouts. We are identifying the natural hide-outs that may have been used by the attackers before the attack and intense search operation is on to nab the attackers,” he said.
He claimed that nine to 12 foreign militants may be active in Rajouri-Poonch area, who may have infiltrated recently. Other reports said that the terrorists may have been housed in the area for the past few months living in the jungle hideouts and supported by the locals.
Some reports claim that the terrorist were present in Rajouri and Poonch for more than one year and had adequate knowledge of the terrain.
The area is a hot bed of Jammu and Kashmir Gaznavi Force (JKGF) as its 'commander' Rafiq Ahmed alias Rafiq Nayi, who is a resident of the area.
“Such attacks can’t be carried out without local support. The terrorists were provided shelter at one place and then provided transport to carry out the attack at another place. They had done proper reconnaissance of the area and despite rain they succeeded to target the army vehicle that was plying with almost zero speed due to a blind turn,” the DGP said, adding that “the attackers were knowing the spot and speed of the vehicle.”
Local Nisar Ahmed, a resident of Gursai village, was already in the suspect list of police. “He has been an active OGW of terrorists since 1990. He was questioned several times in the past. This time, after corroborating the evidence, he was found involved in providing logistic and other support to terrorists who carried out the Poonch attack,” the DGP said, adding that Nisar’s family is also involved in providing support to terrorists.
“He [Nisar Ahmed] has confessed to the investigators that he had provided them shelter for nearly three months, supported them with logistics, arranging a vehicle to ferry them to Bhimber Gali on the day of attack,” said one of the officials who asked not to be named as per the Hindustan Times.
“During the attack, the attackers were getting instructions via voice notes from a local handler, who was in touch with his contacts in Pakistan,” an official was quoted by the Hindustan Times. A middle aged man living in Nar village near BhataDhurian army vehicle attack site has committed suicide after consumption of poisonous substance though he is not suspected to be those who provided support to the terrorist group.
As per Times of India, the banned People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF), an offshoot of Pakistan-backed terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed, claimed the attack and released a series of captioned photos on social media allegedly from the Poonch ambush. After the attack striking its camp in Balakote, Jaish-e-Mohammed created several fringe outfits like Kashmir Tigers, J&K Ghaznavi Force and most recently PAFF which have been banned in India.
The deadly ambush in the Jammu belt has come about even as there has been considerable decline in the level of violence in the Union Territory in the recent past. This is an indicator of Pakistan’s attempts to reignite terror in Jammu as well as in the Valley in the coming summer season and towards this end some highly trained terrorists could have been infiltrated in the recent past and more would be coming as the passes open.
The ambush in Bhatta Dhurian in Jammu and Kashmir and that in Dantewada in Chhattisgarh has a number of common elements. The possibility of local support tacitly or through coercion is underlined in both cases.
The Bhatta Dhurian attack has been ascribed to Pakistan based terrorist group PAFF an acolyte of Jaish e Mohammad which would certainly require local support to be able to operate in an area which is far away from the base.
Similarly, in Dantewada local silence may have been the reason why there was no alarm raised for the IED ambush. Poor tactics by the troops operating on the ground was another major factor in both cases. A single vehicle operating in an area which has seen recent attacks in Bhatta Dhurian and abandoning all caution by a counter Naxal force which has experience in operating in the area is common in both cases.
And in the case of Bhata Dhurian terrorists who were active in the area and had conducted attacks in the recent past including in the Rajauri belt on innocent civilians were never traced by the Rashtriya Rifles or the police.
Hopefully this time around the group of terrorists operating in this zone will be winkled out though is an extremely difficult operation given the terrain and the multiple hideouts available.
Engaging the locals is the answer, not just through programmes such as Operationa Sadbhavna but also trailing the OGWs and developing an informer network in the multiple villages in this zone.