May 15, 2002, Chandigarh, India
Militants massacre 23 kin of Army men
Jammu, May 14
According to the police and Defence Ministry officials, 23 members of families of Army personnel and one soldier were killed when the militants resorted to indiscriminate firing on the family quarters and lobbed grenades. Several women and children were targeted. They said 20 members of families of Army personnel were wounded.
The police said a group of five militants in Army fatigue boarded a Pathankot-Jammu passenger bus near Vijaypur, 30 km south of Jammu, in the wee hours today. They alighted from the bus between Kaluchak and Ratnuchak Army area.
While seven unsuspecting passengers were mowed down after being asked to disembark from the bus, the militants probably in panic sneaked into the Army quarters, which housed the families of soldiers.
The passengers apparently thought that the militants were security personnel and they were being asked to get down as a security measure.
The driver, Prem Singh, died on the spot, while conductor Satish Kumar survived the attack and informed the roadways officials in Kulu about the incident.
The wounded were admitted to Government Medical College where the condition of two was said to be critical. The bodies of the bus passengers were brought to the medical college.
The militants on entering the cantonment lobbed a grenade and opened fire on the sentry box where the soldiers were on guard, killing one soldier. The militants sneaked into the KP Lines area while firing and hurling grenades. By the time the Army commandos were summoned the militants had eliminated 23 persons, including several women and children.
As soldiers retaliated, one terrorist was shot. The remaining four entered the two blocks. The commandos killed two more and the encounter lasted for over six hours. Army ambulances were summoned from the nearby military hospital.
A senior Army official, Maj-Gen Mohan Pandey, said some of the houses of Army men were wired with explosives by the militants.
For six hours passengers traffic on the Jammu-Pathankot highway remained suspended as the entire area was cordoned off.
Official sources said the toll could mount as several persons were in a critical condition.
According to the sources, the militants may have carried out a detailed survey of the area, and hence the attack on the KP Lines area at 6 a.m. when most of the families were asleep or were preparing for morning walk.
Several quarters were partially damaged while one barrack and several vehicles were destroyed in the encounter.
Around 11.45 a.m. the encounter was over after the two remaining holed-up militants were killed. By 12.30 p.m. the traffic on the highway was resumed. More than 3,000 buses and cars remained stranded on either sides of the Kaluchak cantonment for six hours.
So far six of the seven passengers killed in the attack at Kaluchak have been identified. They are driver Prem Singh, Sunaina and her father Bhoop Singh (both from Himachal), Parmeshwari of R.S. Pora, Jammu, Krishan Lal Raina, Colonel Colony, Jammu, Pritam Kumar from Ram Nagar, Jammu. The seventh body has not been identified.
Meanwhile, Defence Ministry spokesman said among the 32 killed 19 were civilians, three jawans, eight dependants of Army personnel. One JCO, eight jawans, 11 children and five women were among 60 injured.
Messages intercepted revealed that Al-Mansorun, new name for Lashkar-e-Toiba, has claimed responsibility for the attack. Bodies of three militants had been recovered and identified as Abu Zaffar, Abu Salman and Abu Marjid, all foreign mercenaries. They were clean shaven in the age group of 18-20 years.
The police said the bus in which the militants travelled from Vijaypur had left Manali at 4.45 pm yesterday. Among the seven passengers killed one was a woman belonging to R.S. Pora in Jammu and the rest were from Kangra and its adjoining areas. The driver of the bus was also killed in the shootout.
Five bodies have not been identified and senior police functionaries from Dharamsala were reaching Jammu to identify the bodies and get an on-the-spot assessment.
Red alert has been sounded in Jammu with instructions to the police and other security agencies to carry out round-the-clock patrolling following reports that fresh groups of militants have crossed into the Jammu sector from across the border.
Security has been beefed up in and around Pathankot following the attack.
District police chief B.K. Uppal said elaborate security arrangements had been made to protect the life and property of people, adding that the forces had been alerted.
The police had set-up special teams, which would patrol the area round the clock.
Naka parties had been formed to monitor people’s movement.
Patrolling in the sensitive areas had been streamlined and vehicles were being checked. Passengers were also being frisked.
More police personnel had been deployed at Madhopur and Chakki.
Meanwhile, several political parties, including the Congress, NC, BJP, BSP, Panun Kashmir, All-State Kashmiri Pandit Conference, various Sikh organisations have condemned the attack on the cantonment area.
Heads of these organisations urged the US Government and the UN to take a serious notice of the incident and prevail upon Islamabad to stop aiding cross-border terrorism.
Dr Suraj Bhan, Governor of Himachal Pradesh, has condemned the brutal terrorists attack on innocent passengers travelling in the HRTC bus at Kaluchak. He has expressed his sympathies with the bereaved families.
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