Loud Blasts Rattle Poonch Forest Area As Operation Enters Day 10

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Jammu: The massive search operation against militants continued for the tenth day on Wednesday in the dense forests of Poonch and Rajouri districts, where nine army personnel were killed in two separate attacks last week, official reports reaching here said.

However, there was no contact with the militants as the joint search parties of the army and special operations group of local police moved cautiously in the dense forests of Mendhar and Surankote in Poonch and Thanamandi in Rajouri, clearing a vast area during the day, they said.

Loud explosions and gunfire rattled Bhata Durian earlier during the day which turned out to be the speculative fire used by the search parties to sanitise a suspected location deep inside the forest belt in Mendhar.

The army had on Tuesday intensified the operation against the holed-up militants in Bhata Durian forest in Mendhar, where the locals were asked not to venture out of their homes.

Also on Tuesday, Army Chief General M M Naravane had visited forward areas along the LoC to review the ground situation and ongoing counter-infiltration operations.

The operation in the forest areas in the twin border districts commenced on October 11 when militants ambushed a search party killing five soldiers including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) in the Surankote forest of Poonch before another gunfight in nearby Thanamandi on the same day. The militants fled both places after the encounters.

On October 14, the militants struck again and killed four soldiers including a JCO in Nar Khas forest in Mendhar as the security forces extended the cordon and search operation to neutralize the fleeing militants.

Drones and helicopters were pressed into service to assist the marching troops, which included para-commandos, in the jungle spread over nearly 8 km X 2 km area at a distance of four km from the Line of Control, the officials said.

The entire forest belt is still under tight security cordon to neutralise the militants, the officials said, adding the area is mountainous and the forest is dense, making the operation difficult and dangerous.

Eight suspected persons including a mother-son duo were detained for questioning from Bhata Durian in connection with providing logistic support to the militants. However, it is to be seen whether the support was given voluntarily or under duress, the officials said.

The traffic between Mendhar and Thanamandi along the Jammu-Rajouri highway remained suspended as a precautionary measure for the 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.

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