Day 19: Hunt For Militants Continues In Poonch

Srinagar: The government forces continued search operation for the nineteenth consecutive day Friday in Bhata Durian Poonch, even as no fresh contact was established with a group of heavily armed militants hiding in the dense forest area.

“Nothing specific has come out so far. However, the operation in the forest area is still in progress,” a senior defence official told Kashmir Observer Friday.

“Actually, the terrain is very difficult. There are natural caves inside the dense forest area. The joint team wants to clear the caves deliberately, one by one. So far not much has been recovered apart from a few stores in the last three days,” he added.

The senior official further said that around 20 suspects have been rounded up by police for questioning after it came to light that they allegedly provided logistic support including food and shelter to the militants.

On Monday, heavy firing was reported from Nar Khas forest area in Bhata Durian between joint team of forces and the militants, believed to be hiding in caves deep inside the forest.

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 Bhata Durian 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 continues in nearby Thanamandi forest in Rajouri district.

Army has been using helicopters and drones to keep a tight surveillance to ensure that the militants are not able to flee.

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. (With PTI inputs)

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Zaid Bin Shabir

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

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