Poonch | At least 12 people were detained on Friday for questioning in connection with the deadly ambush of five army soldiers in the dense forest area of Bata Doriya here even as a MI helicopter, drones and sniffer dogs were pressed into service in a massive manhunt for the perpetrators of last afternoon's attack.
Officials said that those detained were being questioned at various levels by the security forces to ascertain the identity of the terror group, which is believed to be active in the area for more than a year and probably comprises a snipper too.
A day after the attack, Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police Dilbag Singh along with Additional Director General police Mukesh Singh was camping in neighbouring Rajouri district to oversee the investigation. The two officers also visited the site.
A National Investigation Agency (NIA) team headed by a Deputy Inspector General rank officer was also present as the agency is likely to take over the case.
Initial reports suggest the presence of around five terrorists and the army truck is believed to have been attacked from three different sides. After the ambush, the terrorists possibly used grenades as well as sticky bombs that set the vehicle ablaze.
Vehicular traffic was suspended on the national highway between Bhimber Gali and Jarran Wali Gali for the second consecutive day.
The officials said those who executed the attack are believed to have been present in Rajouri and Poonch for more than one year and had adequate knowledge of the terrain which is quite tough, they said.
The area is a hot bed of Jammu and Kashmir Gaznavi Force (JKGF) as its 'commander' Rafiq Ahmed alias Rafiq Nayi, who is a resident of the area, they added.
At present, three to four terrorist groups are active in the region of Rajouri and Poonch, the sources said.
Banned terror group People's Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF), a proxy wing of terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed, has claimed responsibility for the attack. There are reports suggesting that it was a handiwork of banned Lashker-e-Taiba group also.
The entire area of Tota-Gali-Bata Doriya, which has dense forests, has been cordoned off.
Officials said drones and sniffer dogs are being used to trace the terrorists, adding the army also conducted a recee of the area with a MI-chopper.
The five Army personnel were killed and another was seriously injured on Thursday after their vehicle caught fire following the attack. The soldiers were from a Rashtriya Rifles unit deployed for counter-terror operations.
Top army and police officials on Friday laid wreaths and paid homage to the soldiers -- Havildar Mandeep Singh of Chankoian village of Ludhiana (Punjab), Lance Naik Kulwant Singh of Charik village of Moga district (Punjab), Sepoy Harkrishan Singh of village Talwandi of Gurdaspur district (Punjab) and Sepoy Sewak Singh of Bagha village of Bathinda district (Punjab).
The mortal remains were sent to their native places, they said.
Officials said a high alert has been sounded in the twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch amid heightened vigil along the Line of Control.
Meanwhile, Jammu witnessed several protests by BJP, VHP, Rastriya Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena, Dogra Front and Jammu Statehood organisation among others.
In a tweet, the Army said, "Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Pande and all ranks of Indian Army salute the supreme sacrifice of five Indian Army bravehearts, Hav Mandeep Singh, L/Nk Debashish Baswal, L/Nk Kulwant Singh, Sep Harkrishan Singh and Sep Sewak Singh who laid down their lives in the line of duty at Poonch Sector yesterday." Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha said he was anguished at the loss of lives of the brave soldiers.
"Their rich service to the nation will never be forgotten. My thoughts are with the bereaved families," he said in a tweet.