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JammuTerrorists behind Poonch ambushes suspected to have led Reasi bus attack

Terrorists behind Poonch ambushes suspected to have led Reasi bus attack


: A day after a terror attack on Hindu pilgrims in Reasi district of Jammu division, in which nine people, including a two-year-old boy, were killed, an NIA team along with forensic experts reached the spot and gathered samples to assist the local police to ascertain the identity of the group behind the dastardly attack.

A bus with 51 people, which was on its way from Shiv Khori temple to the Vaishno Devi shrine, came under heavy terrorist firing at Ransoo on Sunday evening, due to which the driver lost control over the vehicle, resulting in the bus plunging into a deep gorge.

4 grilled for ‘helping' ultras

– The police have questioned at least four persons from Reasi and adjoining areas on the suspicion of helping the terrorists.
– Cops have procured CCTV footage of the bus after it crossed a forest picket minutes before it was attacked.
– It is being investigated if the bus was being followed to pass on precise information to the terrorists hiding in the forest area ahead.

As per officials, at least eight pilgrims who are undergoing treatment suffered gunshots as the terrorists kept on firing on the crashed vehicle from the main road. The injured said the firing continued in intervals for over 15 minutes after the bus fell into the gorge.

The security forces have launched a search operation near the forest area of the attack site. Drones and sniffer dogs were being used in the operation. A control room has been established by the Reasi district administration to provide necessary assistance to the victims.

Victims were sleeping

Most of us were sleeping when the terrorists opened fire at the bus. Soon after the firing started, we thought that it was the sound of crackers. However, the driver and conductor told us to duck.

Santosh Kumar, a pilgrim who suffered a fracture, said many pilgrims were sleeping when the terrorists opened fire at the bus. “Soon after the firing started, most of us thought that it was the sound of crackers. However, the driver and conductor of the bus told us to duck. The driver was hit due to which he could not control the bus. I saw one terrorist in the middle of the road who was firing on the bus,” said Kumar.

Kumar said the firing continued for at least 15 minutes even when the bus had collided with trees in the gorge. Ajit Gupta, son of Rajesh Gupta, who was admitted to the Government Medical College (GMC) for treatment of his injuries, told The Tribune that a group of eight people, including his father, had started their journey from Gonda in Uttar Pradesh on June 4.

Ajit, who was on his way to Jammu from UP, said his father and others was scheduled to return on the evening of June 9 by train from Katra. “The group had some time left, so they thought to visit Shiv Khori temple. However, all eight members of the group were injured in the incident. Thankfully, none of them is in a serious condition,” Ajit said.

A joint security force temporary headquarters by the J&K Police, Army and CRPF has been set up at the site and the operation is on to neutralise the perpetrators. Sources in the Army Intelligence informed that the modus operandi in the attack was the same like the one in three ambushes on military vehicles in Poonch district since the past one year. Sources said that the three earlier attacks were similar to the attack on the bus.

There was an ambush on a military vehicle in Surankote on May 4, in which one IAF man was killed; the attack on Army vehicles on December 21 last year had left four soldiers dead; and an attack on an Army truck on April 20 last year had claimed the lives of five soldiers. All three attacks took place in Poonch.

“All these ambushes took place on roads, which meander through thick forest areas. The terrorists attacked the vehicles on a turn, so that the driver could not see the ultras beforehand and the driver was always targeted first, before bullets were sprayed on other sides of the vehicle,” said a source. The pilgrim bus was also attacked on a turn in a forest area in a similar manner.

Sources in the police said at least two terrorists were involved in the attack. “While one came on the road to attack the bus from the front, the other, probably a sniper, kept hiding in the forest. It is believed that it is the same group of terrorists which was behind ambushes in Poonch,” a source said. Terrorists usually travel in Rajouri, Poonch and Reasi through forest areas.

A crucial meeting of senior Army commanders of the region also called on Monday at the headquarters of 16 Corps at Nagrota in Jammu. Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has approved an ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh each for the next of kin of pilgrims, who were killed, and Rs 50,000 each for those injured. The injured were being treated at different hospitals.

Jammu ADGP Anand Jain also reached the attack site to review the situation today. Those who were killed in the attack have been identified as Vijay Kumar, a resident of Reasi, who was the driver of the bus, and Arun Kumar of Katra, the conductor. Passengers who were killed included Anurag Verma, Ruby, Pooja Sawhney her two-year-old son Titu Sawhney, Rajinder Prasad, his wife Mamta Sawhney and Shivam Gupta, all residents of UP and Rajasthan.

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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