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Pulwama encounter: Pulwama bomber’s cousin held, 3 Jaish men killed in encounter | India News

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JAMMU/SRINAGAR: An alert police constable helped avert a major tragedy after he noticed terrorists hiding inside a “cavity” in a truck — driven by the Pulwama suicide bomber’s cousin — that was intercepted for a routine check at Bann toll plaza near Nagrota, about 28km from Jammu city, early on Friday.

An encounter ensued after the holed-up infiltrators — “three to four” Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) affiliates from Pakistan who had entered India through the International Border (IB) in Kathua district and were travelling to Kashmir Valley — opened fire at the security forces in which three terrorists were killed and the constable was injured.

Police have arrested the truck driver Sameer Dar, and two of his aides, both suspected JeM overground workers. They are being interrogated. J&K director general of police (DGP) Dilbagh Singh said Sameer is the cousin of Adil Ahmad Dar, the JeM suicide bomber who blew up a CRPF convoy in Lethpora area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14 last year, killing 40 CRPF personnel.

A resident of Pulwama’s Gund Bagh, Sameer had picked up the infiltrators from Dayalachak area in Kathua’s Hiranagar tehsil around 2am and was ferrying them to Srinagar along with a huge quantity of arms and ammunition in his truck loaded with polyvinyl bags. An L-shaped cavity had been created inside the vehicle to house the terrorists, who were heavily armed and had bulletproof vests. “They were all Pakistani terrorists and might have been tasked to carry out a ‘fidayeen’ (suicide) attack. The module was carrying an extra bag and three additional weapons to arm another group already waiting for it,” the DGP said, adding the group had come “fully prepared”.

“The truck was intercepted by a joint team of security personnel around 5am for routine checking. As the security personnel were about to enter it, the holed-up terrorists opened fire, to which our jawans retaliated. A terrorist was killed on the spot while a police constable was injured in the gunfight. Two other terrorists, who fled to a nearby forest area, were later killed in the ensuing encounter,” DGP Singh said.

A huge cache of arms and ammunition — including RDX, a US-made sniper rifle, six AK-47 rifles, four pistols, four smartphones, three wireless radio sets, one satellite phone, medicines and wire cutters — was seized from the slain terrorists. Top commanders of the JeM carry the US-made rifles. One of the terrorists killed on Friday might be a top commander, DGP Singh said.

The injured constable, Bhom Raj, who had discovered the cavity, was admitted to the Jammu government medical college with a bullet wound on his right arm. Raj, who is a constable with Nagrota police station and deployed for checking at the Bann toll plaza, said he was unarmed and couldn’t retaliate. “When we intercepted the truck, the driver and two others in the front seat told us they are carrying medicine and other items to Kashmir. But we were not satisfied,” he said.

The security personnel asked the driver and two others to remove the cover and open the truck door. Raj said, “I started checking and saw a blanket and shoes near the gate. When I peeped inside, I grew suspicious thinking why are the blanket and shoes inside a truck loaded with white bags?” As soon as the cover was removed, the hiding terrorists opened fire at the security forces. “The forces retaliated and gunned down a terrorist, while the others jumped down into a gorge and disappeared into the dense forest area,” Raj said.

All schools and colleges were ordered to be shut in nearby Udhampur district as a precautionary measure after the encounter. The Jammu-Srinagar highway was closed and the entire forest belt was cordoned off. The security personnel were still conducting a search operation in the area till the filing of this report. “Three terrorists have been gunned down in the operation but searches are on in the forest area as per our inputs, they were four in number,” said a senior police officer.

Asked whether the terrorists crossed over this side through a tunnel, DGP Singh said security forces checked the area but could not find any. “We will recheck that area as in past tunnels have been found in Hiranagar-Chillyari belt,” he said.

(With agency inputs)

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