Five Army soldiers were killed on Thursday afternoon in Poonch district of J&K when their vehicle was fired upon by “unidentified terrorists” who “took advantage of heavy rain and low visibility in the area”.
Jaish-backed terror group, People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF), has claimed responsibility for the attack on an Army vehicle that killed five jawans, sources said.
The vehicle caught fire, due to likely use of grenades by terrorists. The incident took place around 3 pm when the Army vehicle was moving between Bhimber Gali and Poonch in the Rajouri sector. Five personnel of the Rashtriya Rifles unit deployed for Counter Terrorist operations, in this area, have unfortunately lost their lives in the incident.
At 6.33 pm, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, in a Twitter post, said: “Anguished by the tragedy in Poonch District (J&K), where the Indian Army has lost its brave soldiers after a truck caught fire. In this tragic hour, my thoughts are with the bereaved families.”
The dead have been identified as Hav Mandeep Singh, L/Nk Kulwant Singh, Sep Harkrishan Singh and Sep Sewak Singh from Punjab, and L/Nk Debashish Baswal from Odisha.
According to military sources, the vehicle was part of a small convoy of two-three vehicles, and the attack was likely a “planned ambush”.
“The terrorists had identified the area in advance and planned an ambush. They fired at one of the vehicles, which hit the diesel tank, and it caught fire,” an official said.
Thursday’s attack comes a week after Union Home Minister Amit Shah, on April 13, reviewed the security situation in J&K. He also reviewed the preparations of the G20 meet, scheduled to be held in Srinagar in May, and asked all agencies to work in a coordinated manner for the event’s success.
Soon after the attack, security forces cordoned off the area and stopped movement of vehicular traffic on the Bhimber Gali-Surankote road. A massive search operation has been launched to track down the terrorists, officials said, adding that people have been advised by the administration to take the Mendhar route to travel to Poonch.
What is PAFF?
The People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF) is a militant Islamist organisation operating against India in Pakistan. The organization’s stated objective is to merge the whole of Kashmir with Pakistan. It is active in the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir. India claims it is an offshoot of Lashkar-e-Taiba. According to Tracking Terrorism, it is believed the group was started in 2020 by Jaish-e-Mohammad or Lashkar-e-Taiba, as a front to bypass sanctions.
Attacks by PAFF
- 3 June 2021: PAFF militants claimed responsibility for the murder of BJP leader Rakesh Pandita.
- 11 August 2021: PAFF claimed responsibility for an attack against Indian forces in Rajouri district, on Eid ul-Adha in which four Indian soldiers were killed.
- 11 October 2021: PAFF claimed responsibility for an attack in Mendhar in the forests of Poonch district which killed 9 Indian soldiers.
- 20 April 2023: PAFF claimed responsibility for an attack on an Indian Army truck which killed 5 soldiers.