April 2002 News

7 villagers massacred

8 April 2002
The Tribune

Jammu: 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.


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