Srinagar: In an apparent preparation for a major offensive against the militants who have been evading armed forces for more than a week after killing nine soldiers in deadly ambushes, the police on Tuesday made announcements in the Bhata Durian area in Poonch asking locals to bring back their cattle from the fields and stay indoors.
According to reports, as the operation entered its ninth consecutive day on Tuesday, the police made repeated announcements over public address systems in the mosques in Bhata Durian directing people not to venture out.
While a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) and four other security personnel were killed in a fierce gunfight during the start of the counter-insurgency operation in Surankote forest of Poonch on October 11, four more soldiers including another JCO lost their lives in a separate encounter in Nar Khas forest in Mendhar on Thursday evening after the security forces extended the cordon and search operation.
An encounter was on in the adjoining Thanamandi forest in Rajouri district on October 11 when the armed forces confronted the militants who, however, managed to escape.
The entire forest belt is still under tight security cordon, the officials said, adding the area is mountainous and the forest is dense, making the operation difficult and dangerous.
Eight persons including a mother-son duo were detained for questioning from Bhatta Durrian suspected of providing logistic support to the militants. However, it is unclear whether the alleged support was given voluntarily or under duress, the officials said.
Earlier on Saturday, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Rajouri-Poonch range, Vivek Gupta said the presence of militants in the forest area connecting Poonch and Rajouri was observed two and a half months ago and accordingly tactical operations were launched to track them down.
“The joint security grid was tracking different groups of terrorists but sometimes operations take time, depending on the topography of the area. The contact with the terrorists was established on three occasions during the start of the operation, based on the intelligence inputs,” the officer had said, adding the terrorists are holed up and the joint forces are on the job to take the operation to the logical conclusion.
The army has already deployed para-commandos and a helicopter was also seen hovering over the forest area on Saturday for surveillance. The traffic between Mendhar and Thanamandi along the Jammu-Rajouri highway remained suspended as a precautionary measure for the fifth day on Tuesday in the wake of the ongoing operation.
Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu region have witnessed a rise in infiltration attempts since June this year, resulting in the killing of nine militants in separate encounters. (With PTI inputs)
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