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Rajouri Attacks: Over 50 Detained For Questioning As Search Operation Enters 9th Day, Villagers Armed With Rifles

Seven persons were killed in two terrorist acts in Rajouri's Dhangri village earlier this month. No terrorists have been apprehended so far.

VDC members with weapons after Rajouri attacks
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Over 50 persons have been detained for questioning over the killings of seven persons in two terrorist acts in Dhangri village in Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri earlier this month. 

On January 1, terrorists fired at houses in Rajouri's Dhangri, killing five people. The next morning, within 14 hours of firing, an IED exploded near the house of one of the victims of the previous day's attack. The IED explosion killed two children, taking the death toll to seven. 

Following the terrorists' firing, a search operation was launched by the J&K Police, CRPF, and the Indian Army, which on Tuesday entered its ninth day. There has so far been no contact with the terrorists. 

The five persons killed on the January 1 attack are identified as Satish Kumar (45), Deepak Kumar (23), Pritam Lal (57), Shishu Pal (32), and Prince Sharma.  The IED exploded the next day near Pritam's house. Prince is the younger brother of Deepak. 

The two killed in the IED blast on January 2 are identified as Vihan Sharma (04) and Samiksha Sharma (16). The two of them were cousins. The police said the IED was planted under a bag by terrorists after the firing incident on January 1. 

Over 50 detained, 'vital leads' secured

Over 50 persons have so far been detained over the attacks. The detained persons include women as well.

Earlier, the police said "some vital leads" have been secured in the investigation. 

An official earlier told PTI, "The investigation of the terror attack is going in the right direction. So far, a dozen-and-a-half suspects, including some women, have been detained for questioning.Some vital leads have been found that suggest the presence of terrorists in some villages near Rajouri town."

Officials said police posters announcing a reward of Rs 10 lakh to anyone giving credible information about the terrorists have also come up at various places in the district. 

A joint cordon and search operation by the Army, police and CRPF is in progress at over two dozen villages where there were reports of terrorist presence before the attack, the officials said, adding special operational teams of Jammu and Kashmir police, moved from outside Rajouri, have also been deployed at designated locations.

"Anti-terrorist operation is going on at a massive scale to neutralise the terrorists involved in the Dhangri attack.There are some vital leads and we are working on these to bring the culprits to book," said Senior Superintendent of Police Rajouri Mohammad Aslam to PTI.

Aslam said additional troops of the CRPF along with police were deployed in sensitive areas to strengthen vigil.

Villagers given rifles, village guards being mustered

In the wake of fear and insecurity that has taken over the area following Rajouri killings, the government has started arming villagers and mustering and training volunteers to take up arms and guard villages. 

The issue of village defece committees (VDCs) has been raised in the past as well. Following Rajouri killings, the government assured the VDCs in thea area will be revived. 

On Monday, the government handed over self-loading rifles (SLRs) to the ex-servicemen acting as village defence guards (VDGs) in Dhangri village.

This is for the first time that the VDGs, who were earlier known as Village Defence Committee (VDC) members, were given sophisticated rifles anywhere in the Jammu region, where they play a pivotal role in rooting out terrorism by standing shoulder-to-shoulder with police and other security agencies. Earlier, the VDCs were only equipped with .303 rifles. There were demands for replacing the outdated rifles with sophisticated weapons to tackle the threat of terrorism more effectively.

The Jammu and Kashmir Police held a special camp in Dhangri on Monday. It was attended by Rajouri Deputy Commissioner Vikas Kundal and Senior Superintendent of Police Mohammad Aslam, among others.

Around 40 ex-servicemen living in the area and identified by a panchayat-level committee were given SLRs along with 100 bullets each at the camp, the officials said, adding that most of these ex-servicemen had served in the Army and volunteered themselves to act as VDGs.

"We are thankful to the district administration for giving us the SLRs, which have a better firing range, and giving us an opportunity to serve as VDGs," ex-serviceman Roshan Lal said.

Lal said all the VDGs, especially the ex-servicemen, are ready to work in coordination with the security forces to counter terrorists.

Sarpanch of Dhangri Dheeraj Sharma thanked Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha's administration for fulfilling their demand.

Sharma said during his visit to the village after the terror attack, Sinha had promised to provide new weapons.

"Our demand is fulfilled.... Although the number of weapons is less than what was projected, we are still thankful. We expect that more weapons will be provided in the coming times," Sharma said.

Border grid being beefed up

The administration strengthened VDGs comprising local volunteers and the border grid to keep a tight vigil on possible infiltration routes, the officials said.

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Police have also deployed additional personnel at border posts as part of enhanced security near the Line of Control (LoC) to keep a close vigil on notorious infiltration routes, the officials said.

Meanwhile, as part of efforts to strengthen VDGs and sharpen their firing skills, the officials said the Indian Army held a special firing practice session for the volunteers in Mahadev Menka firing range in Sunderbani sector this morning.

Over 50 VDGs, drawn from different villages along the LoC, took part in the firing practice session which was held in coordination with local police, the officials said, adding that the said weapon handlers and shooting experts of the Army demonstrated proper use of weapons to VDGs who later practised firing.

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Stone-pelting at minority community's houses

Amid fear and insecurity among the J&K's minority Hindu community members following Rajouri killings, stone pelting at their houses were reported in a separate incident on Monday, PTI reported citing sources.

The PTI reported that the incident took place in Banch village and source added that the pelting of stones created panic among the people.

Police immediately rushed to the spot and security was tightened in the area, the sources said, adding that there are around 20 families of a minority community in the village.

(With PTI inputs)

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