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Udhampur attack an attempt by Pakistan to destabilize peace : Rajnath Singh

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New Delhi:  Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday condemned the Udhampur terror attack and termed it an attempt by Pakistan to destabilize peace in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Two militants attacked Border Security Force (BSF) convoy in Udhampur in Jammu on Wednesday. Two jawans were killed and 14 were injured in the attack,” the home minister said in a statement in the Rajya Sabha.

“One of the two terrorists was killed and the other was arrested with the help of locals. The other terrorist has been brought to Jammu and interrogation is on. After initial interrogation, the terrorist has told his name is Naved, alias Mohammad Usman, and he is from Faisalabad,” Singh added.

The Rajya Sabha, which has been repeatedly disrupted since the beginning of the session, agreed to hear the minister’s statement on the attack in silence, with leader of opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad calling it a matter of great concern for the whole nation.

He said an AK-47 with magazines and explosives were recovered.

“This attack is an attempt by cross border terrorists to disrupt peace in Jammu and Kashmir. We condemn it,” he said.

He also expressed regret over the death of two BSF troopers, and those injured in the “mindless violence”.

Singh said that the government is considering gallantry awards for the BSF troopers, and has asked the state government to reward the villagers.

“BSF, Jammu and Kashmir police, and CRPF showed courage in limiting the damage and made the attack fail. For this courageous action, the kin of the deceased soldiers will be given compensation, jobs and will also be given gallantry awards,” he said.

“We specially appreciate the bravery of the villagers who risked their life and nabbed the terrorists. We have urged the state government to recognise and reward the action. We believe the arrested terrorist’s interrogation will give information on their modus operandi,” Singh added.

Soon after, there was a din in the house once again and it was adjourned till 2 pm.

(IANS)

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Thousands Displaced as SDF Targeting Civilians Advances on Last IS Territory in Syria

Bali said the second obstacle for the SDF forces is that IS has a number of hostages who had been arrested and detained by the militants.

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Syria
A U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter stands atop a hill in the desert outside the village of Baghuz, Syria, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

Islamic State (IS) fighters are targeting civilians who are trying to flee the last territory held by the terror group in eastern Syria, U.S.-backed forces told VOA on Thursday.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed Kurdish-led alliance, said that IS militants hit a road used by civilians to escape violence as the battle to free the town of Baghuz in Syria’s Deir el-Zour province enters its sixth day.

“IS has blocked that road to prevent civilians from coming to the SDF,” SDF fighter Ali Ahmed said. “They have targeted civilians there, but we have responded to their attacks against civilians.”

Ahmed said that some families of IS fighters are among the fleeing civilians.

Located near the Iraqi border, Baghuz is the last stronghold held by IS extremists in Syria. With the help of the U.S.-led coalition, SDF fighters have pushed out IS from all territories it once held since 2014.

Fierce fighting between IS militants and the U.S.-backed fighters continues as the latter try to gain ground on Baghuz on several fronts.

“We have two main obstacles as we advance on Baghuz,” Mustafa Bali, an SDF spokesperson, told VOA. “The first one is that [IS] terrorists are holding on to a number of civilians to use them as a bargain chip for their exit.”

Bali said the second obstacle for the SDF forces is that IS has a number of hostages who had been arrested and detained by the militants.

IS controls about 5 square kilometers of territory inside the Syrian town, local military officials said.

“It seems that even the Americans are trying to rescue those civilians and hostages from IS,” Hasib said in a phone interview. VOA

Ivan Hasib, a Syrian reporter covering the battle, told VOA that he witnessed an unusual movement by U.S. military vehicles in the area.

“It seems that even the Americans are trying to rescue those civilians and hostages from IS,” Hasib said in a phone interview.

He said the remaining IS fighters in Baghuz are hoping to exchange hostages for a safe exit into the Iraqi desert.

Also Read: Islamic State Using Women, Children as Human Shields to Postpone Defeat

“There must be some sort of negotiations between IS and SDF about the hostages, because even [U.S.-led] coalition airstrikes have stopped since Tuesday night,” Hasib said, adding that SDF fighters were forced to pause their military operations on the northeastern front in Baghuz.

“We can’t start marching toward it from this side because of civilians. Many civilians are using this road to this side. So we’re here to protect them,” Mezlum Kobani, an SDF commander, told VOA.

According to SDF officials, more than 5,000 civilians have been rescued from IS in Baghuz. (VOA)