Day 15: Heavy Gunfire Rattles Poonch Forest

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Jammu- Heavy firing was reported from a forest area as a massive search operation to track down hiding militants in Jammu and Kashmir's twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri entered the 15th day on Monday, officials said.

It was not immediately clear whether the firing in Bhatti Durrian forest was the result of a fresh contact with the militants, believed to be hiding in caves deep inside the forest, the officials said.

Nine Army personnel including two JCO's and an arrested militant, a resident of Rawlakot in Pakistani side of Kashmir, have been killed and three security men injured since the commencement of the operation on October 11.

While five Army personnel were killed on the first day of the operation in Surankote forest of Poonch, four other soldiers lost their lives in Bhatti Durrian area of Mendhar on October 14.

The militant, who was shifted from Kot Bhalwal Central Jail Jammu to Mendhar on police remand for questioning in connection with the ongoing operation was killed when the security forces accompanying him to identify a hideout came under fire from hiding militants on Sunday.

Besides Surankote and Mendhar, the search operation also continued in nearby Thanamandi forest in Rajouri district.

The officials said Army helicopters made several sorties over the besieged forest area, while drones are also being used to keep a tight surveillance to ensure that the militants are not able to flee.

Nearly a dozen persons including two women were also detained for questioning after it came to light that they allegedly provided logistic support including food and shelter to the militants, the officials said.

Traffic between Mendhar and Thanamandi along the Jammu-Rajouri highway remained suspended as a precautionary measure for the 10th day on Monday 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 terrorists in separate encounters.

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