Jailed Militant,3 Personnel Injured In Firing Near Poonch Encounter Site

Jammu: As the military operation in the Poonch forests of Jammu and Kashmir entered day 14 on Sunday without any significant success, three more security personnel were injured during the search operation this morning.

A detained militant who was being escorted to the operational area to identify the militant hideouts too was reportedly injured in the early morning shootout between armed forces and militants entrenched in the dense forest area. 

A police source said three security personnel were injured early Sunday when militants opened fire on a joint search party of the Army and police inside a forest in Poonch district .

Heavy firing and explosions were reported from Bhatta Durrian forest of Mendhar which along with nearby forest areas adjoining Surankote (Poonch) and Thanamandi in Rajouri district is witnessing a massive search operation, the officials said.

During the operation nine Army personnel, including two JCO's, were killed in separate ambushes in Surankote and Mendhar on October 11 and 14.

A police spokesperson said two policemen and an Army jawan along with a prisoner Zia Mustafa, a resident of Rawalakot in Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir, affiliated with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) were injured in fresh firing by militants in Bhatta Durrian forest this morning.

“Detenue Mustafa was taken to Bhatadurian for identification of terrorist hideout during the ongoing operation in which three Army jawans and a JCO were martyred (on October 14).

“During the search when the team approached the hideout, terrorists again opened fire on the joint team of police and Army personnel in which two policemen and an Army jawan sustained injuries,” the spokesperson said.

The police said Mustafa also sustained injuries and he could not be taken out from the site due to heavy fire.

“Injured personnel are under treatment at the nearby health facility. A fresh attempt will be made with reinforcements (to neutralise terrorists and retrieve the injured Mustafa,” the spokesperson said, adding that an operation at the site is still going on.

PTI quoting officials said Mustafa was lodged in Kot Bhalwal jail for the last 14 years and was shifted to Mendhar on police remand after investigation revealed his link with the militants in Poonch forests.

Mustafa had sneaked into this side from the same route before he was arrested from south Kashmir, the officials said.

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

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.

Drones and helicopters were pressed into service to assist the marching troops, which included para-commandos, in the jungle spread over nearly 8 kmX2 km area at a distance of four km from the Line of Control (LoC), the officials said.

Ten persons, including two women, were detained for questioning after it came to light that they allegedly provided logistic support including food and shelter to the terrorists, the officials said.

An Army official said on Saturday that a major part of the forest was cleared and now the search area is restricted to a location housing a number of natural caves.

“There was no contact with the terrorist after the initial gunfights on October 11 and October 14. The search area was expanded in search of the terrorists,” the official had said, hoping to conclude the operation with the clearance of the natural caves within a day or two depending on the weather conditions.

Traffic between Mendhar and Thanamandi along the Jammu-Rajouri highway remained suspended as a precautionary measure for the ninth day on Sunday in the wake of the ongoing operation.

Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu region have witnessed a rise in infiltration attempts since June this year. With inputs from PTI

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