Army officials shifted following civilian deaths in Poonch

Army chief to assess security situation in Jammu

Security forces at Surankote in Poonch, where five Army personnel were killed in an encounter with militants on Monday.
Security forces at Surankote in Poonch, where five Army personnel were killed in an encounter with militants on Monday | Photo Credit: PTI

JAMMU — In response to the anguish among civilian population following the death of three civilians, the army took action on Sunday by relocating a Brigadier-level officer and three other officers from their duties in Surankote, Poonch. This move comes amidst contemplation of disciplinary measures after internal investigations, as reported by Daily Excelsior.

Brigadier Padam Acharya, serving as the Brigade Commander of the Rashtriya Rifles, has been relieved of command, alongside three senior army officers, following the unfortunate demise of three civilians and injuries to approximately 10 others.

The army, while not officially confirming these changes, assured that the condition of the 10 injured civilians admitted to Surankote and Poonch hospitals remains stable. Officials further mentioned that medical professionals are diligently attending to the injured individuals, who are steadily responding to treatment.

Meanwhile, local police have initiated a First Information Report (FIR) to delve deeper into the circumstances leading to the civilian fatalities.

Expressing concern, officials noted the profound distress among a specific community, historically active in supporting anti-militancy efforts by collaborating closely with the army, paramilitary forces, and police. The recent tragic events have deeply affected this community, known for its unwavering support during times of heightened conflict, officials emphasized.

The army has commenced a comprehensive internal inquiry into the deaths of the three civilians, responding to allegations that their demise occurred while in army custody.

These civilians, along with others, were reportedly taken in for questioning following the ambush that claimed the lives of four army jawans by unidentified militants in Poonch on December 21. Their deaths under mysterious circumstances on the same evening have raised critical questions, prompting the standard operating procedure to launch a thorough investigation, sources confirmed.

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Simultaneously, the Jammu and Kashmir Police are conducting their investigation into these fatalities.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the army reiterated its commitment to provide complete support and cooperation in the ongoing investigations. Meanwhile, the civil administration has announced compensations and assured compassionate appointments for the families of the deceased.

Amidst these developments, Army Chief General Manoj Pande is scheduled to visit Jammu today to evaluate the security scenario, particularly in the aftermath of the Dera Ki Gali encounter in Poonch district.

Gen Pande’s itinerary includes a visit to the site of the recent attack at Dera Ki Gali. This area has been under intensive search and cordon operations for the past five days, involving army personnel, para commandos, paramilitary forces, and police, aiming to track down three to four militants involved in the attack.

With nearly 30 militants reportedly hiding in the hills, natural caves, and forests across the twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch, the army headquarters is closely monitoring the situation. Sources suggest that General Pande will assess the situation at Nagrota Corps Headquarters, along with top army commanders, to strategize heightened operations aimed at eliminating the militans.

The upcoming changes in the Nagrota Corps leadership and the anticipated visit of a Defence Ministry team to Rajouri and Poonch districts signify the seriousness with which authorities are addressing the recent surge in militant activities.

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Concurrently, extensive search and cordon operations persist in the upper reaches, forests, and other vulnerable areas of Rajouri and Poonch districts. The joint efforts of the army, para commandos, paramilitary forces, and police, supplemented by the support of local residents, continue in the pursuit of militants.

In solemn tribute, a wreath-laying ceremony was held on Sunday in Rajouri for the four soldiers who fell victim to the militants’ ambush in Dera Ki Gali. The suspended mobile internet services in the twin districts persist for the third consecutive day.

At the ceremony led by General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command, Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi, homage was paid to Naik Birender Singh, Naik Karan Kumar, Rifleman Gautam Kumar, and Rifleman Chandan Kumar. Their mortal remains, belonging to Uttarakhand, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh, were honoured and subsequently transported to their respective hometowns, as reported by Daily Excelsior.

Lt Gen Dwivedi also extended condolences and support to the families of the deceased soldiers during the ceremony. The solemn event witnessed the presence of officials such as General Officer Commanding of Jammu-based White Knight Corps Lt Gen Sandeep Jain, Deputy Commissioner Rajouri Vikas Kundal, Senior Superintendent of Police Rajouri Amritpal Singh, and numerous army personnel, all paying their respects.

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