Tuesday, April 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

7 villagers massacred
Three killed in Rajouri blast
Tribune News Service and Agencies

Jammu, April 8
Seven civilians belonging to a particular community were massacred and 10 others wounded when a group of militants, equipped with sophisticated weapons, fired indiscriminately on the hamlet, Dhandli, in the Arnas area of Udhampur district late last night.

According to the police, the militants sneaked into the Hindu-dominated village and opened fire. Members of the village defence committee (VDC) retaliated and the exchange of fire lasted for over 15 minutes. When the VDC members felt they were overpowered, they ran away along with some civilians.

Santosh Devi (6), Shoba Ram (40), Santosh (30) and Shankar Das (55) died on the spot.

Out of the 10 wounded, five were airlifted to Jammu Medical College where, according to doctors, the condition of the two of them was serious.

Additional companies of the security forces were rushed to the area and a manhunt was launched. The Minister of State for Home Mr Najib Sohrawardhy, accompanied by the DGP, Mr A.K. Suri, and the IGP, Mr P.L. Gupta, flew to the remote village this morning.

Eyewitness accounts said had people not got a chance to escape to safety during the exchange of fire between the VDC members and the militants, more civilians would have died.

According to Chain Singh, VDC member, a group of militants entered Dhandli village and demanded weapons from “us”. He said the militants threatened that if “we did not hand over our weapons to them, they will kill all inhabitants of the village.”

Chain Singh, who had been airlifted to Jammu Medical College with multiple bullet wounds, said: “We refused to oblige the militants” which infuriated them and they started firing indiscriminately. “We retaliated till our ammunition lasted,” he said, adding that some VDC members had no alternative but to flee.

The militants set ablaze 10 houses, destroying property worth thousands.

Meanwhile, the security forces and heavily-armed militants are locked in a fierce gunbattle in the upper reaches of the high mountains near the village.

Police sources said following the massacre, police and paramilitary personnel launched a massive search operation and in course of the combing operation, they were fired upon by the militants hiding in the upper reaches of the mountains.

The encounter was on when Mr Sohrawardhy, Mr Suri, and Mr Gupta were talking to the residents of the village.

In another incident, three persons were killed and 10 injured, some of them critically, when a bomb exploded in a sweet shop in Rajouri today, the police sources said.

The blast occurred around 2.15 p.m. in which a portion of the shop collapsed. Many people were feared buried under the debris, they said.

Rescue teams recovered three mutilated bodies, the sources said, adding that several women were present in the shop at the time of the blast.

The injured, some of whose limbs were severed, had been rushed to the District Hospital where the condition of a few of them was stated to be critical, they added.


Villagers' ammo ran out

Jammu, April 8
The lives of seven civilians who were killed by militants in Udhampur district could have been saved if the Village Defence Committee (VDC) members had not run out of ammunition during their six-hour-long fierce gunbattle with the ultras, a VDC member said today.

The death of the civilians resulted as the ammunition of 303 rifles supplied to the VDC members was exhausted, Mr Chain Singh, who was injured in the gunbattle, said.

“We would have beaten them back and saved our people, if our ammunition had not exhausted around 3 am after the six-hour-long gunbattle with 30-40 odd heavily armed terrorists in the village,” Mr Chain Singh, who was admitted to the Government Medical College hospital here, said.

Mr Chain Singh, who lost his sister and her daughter in the attack, said the militants, mostly foreign mercenaries with long beards, swooped down on Dansal village and cordoned it off, with the assistance of local ultras, around 9 pm last night.

The militants fired on the houses of Hindus and hurled grenades, Mr Chain Singh, who suffered bullet injuries on his back, said, adding 20 VDC members retaliated.

“We took positions and continuously fought till 3 am, when our ammunition got exhausted.” The militants then fired on civilians who came their way, he added.

Mr Chain Singh also expressed resentment over the state government not arming the VDCs with modern weapons. “We had been given only 303 rifles with 50 rounds each...in the presence of militants who are equipped with sophisticated weapons like AK rifles, Pika gun rocket launchers and grenade launchers”.

He said the attack was the handiwork of the LeT and Hizbul Mujahideen outfits which, he says, are operating jointly in the area. He said the VDCs had beaten back an earlier attack last July. PTIBack

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