October 22, 2021 11:28 pm

Poonch Operation Enters Day 12: After 2 Day Lull, Guns Roar Again

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Srinagar: After a lull of two days, the government forces and militants exchanged heavy gunfire in Bhata Durian forest area of Poonch district, where two sides are locked in the longest gun-battle in recent times.

According to reports, heavy firing resumed between the joint team of police and Army and the holed up militants as the former made deeper advances in Nar Khas forests in Bhata Durian close to the Line of Control early Friday morning.

The exchange of fire between the two sides continued intermittently. Nine soldiers have been killed in the skirmish so far. However, no reports of any fresh casualty on either side were received on Friday.

Reports also said that loud explosions were heard as the joint team intensified the combing operation to hunt down a group of heavily armed militants, who are on the run after ambushing army patrols.

An official told Kashmir Observer that hundreds of elite Para commandos besides specially trained Special Operations Group (SOG) of police were engaged in the combing operation that entered twelfth straight day Friday.

“The forest area is very vast and dense. The militants keep on changing their positions. The operation is in progress and all the hiding militants will be killed,” he said.

On Tuesday, the army intensified the anti-militancy operation after making announcements from mosques asking locals not to venture into the forest area. The public announcement in Bhata Durian coincided with Army Chief General M M Naravane’s visit to the forward areas along the LoC, where he reviewed the ground situation.

The operation in the forest areas in the twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri 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 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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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir
Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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