How LeT, JeM offshoots owned up Reasi terror attack but walked back after 2-year-old victim's picture drew ire

Search continues for three foreign terrorists, possibly associated with LeT

PTI06_10_2024_000262A Army personnel during a search operation after a bus carrying pilgrims was ambushed by terrorists, in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir | PTI

A day after the shocking terror attack on a bus carrying pilgrims killed nine people, three shadow groups associated with the banned terror outfits Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility for the brutal act. However, they later backtracked after the images of a 2-year-old victim went viral on social media. 

Initially, two offshoots of LeT and JeM - People's Anti-Facist Force  (PAFF), Revival of Resistance (both linked to Jaish), and The Resistance Front (affiliated with Lashkar-e-Taiba) -  took to social media to assert their involvement in the attack on the bus travelling from Shiv Khori to Katra in Reasi, officials said.

However, as images of the innocent two-year-old victim identified as Titu circulated online prompting widespread condemnation, the terror outfits swiftly retracted their claims and instead shifted blame onto government agencies, PTI quoted a senior official.

The two-year-old's mother Pooja Saini (30) also died after terrorists opened fire at a bus carrying pilgrims in Jammu’s Reasi district on Sunday evening. Besides Pooja, her paternal uncle Rajendra Saini, 44, and Rajendra’s wife Mamta, 40, too died. The bus was ferrying pilgrims from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi.

The officials said five of the nine deceased had gunshot wounds. While  41 people were injured in the attack, 10 of them had bullet injuries.

Meanwhile, a manhunt is for the three foreign terrorists responsible for the deadly attack.

Deputy Inspector General of Police, Udhampur-Reasi Range, Rayees Mohammad Bhat said they have got some leads as 11 teams of police, army and CRPF are jointly working on two different axes to neutralise the fleeing terrorists.

While the focus is on three terrorists, officials have also not ruled out the possibility of a fourth person being present at the spot who acted as a lookout for the three terrorists. The joint operation is led by the police, the Army, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and central intelligence agencies.

According to security forces, the terrorists may have been hiding in the mountainous terrains of Rajouri and Reasi.  The area where the accused are reportedly hiding is a dense forest. The lack of water sources, the threat of forest fires, steep slopes and crevices that work as a natural hideout are making the search operations hard. The search parties are moving cautiously to avoid any casualty in case of contact with the terrorists.

"Operation is continuing for the second day and we are working on various inputs. Multiple teams have been formed to work on two different axes while the investigation part is also continuing simultaneously," the DIG, who is leading the operation, told PTI on Monday.

Several people have been detained for questioning but officials said it was too early to reveal details.

Meanwhile, the separatist amalgam Hurriyat Conference has condemned the terror attack and said it "has and will always condemn all forms of violence against humanity. The loss of precious human lives is deeply disturbing".

The incident also triggered anti-Pakistan protests across the Jammu region, including Katra, Doda town and Kathua district. Accusing Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, the protesters demanded action against the neighbouring country.

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