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GUJRAT, July 9: Seven army personnel and a policeman died in a brazen attack on a camp near a bridge on the river Chenab and in an exchange of fire between some of the attackers and a police party on Monday.

Gujrat District Police Officer Raja Basharat Mehmood said the assailants who came by car and motorbike opened fire at the camp set up by the armed forces to search for the body of the pilot of a helicopter which had crashed some time ago.

He said five security personnel were killed on the spot and eight others were injured. Later, one of the injured died on way to hospital and another at the Combined Military Hospital in Gujranwala.

The DPO said that a police party was on routine patrol on GT Road when it was informed by a passerby about the firing near the Chenab bridge, close to the industrial town of Wazirabad. When the policemen rushed to the place they saw two masked men coming towards them on a motorbike. Seeing the police party, the masked men tried to escape but the motorbike skidded and they fell on the ground.

When the policemen moved towards them a car appeared and its occupants opened fire. The policemen returned fire, but Constable Qaisar was killed in the crossfire and the terrorists escaped.

The army personnel killed in the camp attack were identified as Subedar Abdul Majid, Ghulam Rasool, Hawaldar Shahid, Naik Abdul Rauf, Aftab, GM Basit and Sher Ali.

Sadar Gujrat police have registered a case on a report of a security official.

Police and security personnel cordoned off the area and traffic coming from Gujrat, Rawalpindi and Islamabad was diverted to the other side of the bridge.

The area near the Chenab bridge on the Gujrat side has been a target of terrorists in the recent past. This is the third major act of terrorism in the area since January this year.

On January 3, two suspected militants were killed near Gorali village when a suicide vest worn by one of them exploded.

On March 14, a police picket near Kathala Chenab railway crossing came under attack in which four cops were killed.

According to our Gujranwala correspondent, the Corps Commander of Mangla and senior police officers of Gujrat and Gujranwala visited the spot and gathered information about the incident.

Agencies add: “The exact number of attackers is not known but they came by motorbike and sprayed bullets on the troops from the bridge,” a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“It is highly likely that the attackers belonged to a banned religious outfit closely linked to Taliban.” The official added: “Nobody has so far claimed responsibility of the attack but if we follow the pattern of the attack, it looks similar to assaults that these outfits have been carrying out in different cities.”

Supporters of the Defence of Pakistan Council had moved through the area overnight on their way to Islamabad to protest against the reopening of Nato supply routes.

“The Defence of Pakistan Council’s supporters passed through the area some time before the attack, but linking the two is speculation at this point,” police official Nadeem Abbas told Reuters in Gujrat.

“There are criminal groups active in the area, they could be involved. Or it could be militants, which could be a serious development,” a senior Pakistani security official told Reuters.

“We are not ruling anything out.”