Poonch Operation: Man Arrested For Links With Pak Militants

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Jammu: A man was arrested for alleged links with militants from Jammu and Kashmir and across the border in Pakistan after he was among a dozen people detained for questioning in connection with the ongoing search operation in a forest belt in Poonch district, officials said on Tuesday.

The accused Yasir Arafat, a resident of Bhata Durian forest, was among three suspects detained by the police for questioning from Nepal while they were trying to flee the country on October 25, the officials said.

Besides, 10 people, including two women, were earlier detained for questioning during the operation in Bhata Durian forest.

They said the operation to track down a group of militants in Bhata Durian forest in Mendhar along with Surankote forest in Poonch and nearby Thanamandi in Rajouri district entered the 23rd day on Tuesday.

The operation started in Surankote forest on October 11 following the killing of five soldiers, including a Junior Commissioned Officer, and was subsequently extended to Mendhar to neutralise the fleeing militants where another encounter took place on October 14 leaving four soldiers, including another JCO, killed.

Pakistani militant Zia Mustafa, who was shifted from Kot Bhalwal Central Jail Jammu to Mendhar on police remand for questioning in connection with the operation, was killed when the security forces accompanying him to identify a hideout came under fire from hiding militants on October 24.

The questioning of Arafat revealed his links with Mustafa, who is the alleged mastermind in the March 2003 Nadimarg massacre of 24 Kashmiri Hindus, and his handlers across the border, the officials said, without giving further details.

Arafat was detained by a police party from Kathmandu in Nepal along with Mohammad Noor of Gulhutta-Mendhar and Mohammad Rashid of Bhata Durian while they were on their way to Saudi Arabia.

The trio were detained for questioning after information was received that they were in touch with militants hiding in Bhata Durian and were planning to escaped outside the country, the officials said.

They said a few more detained persons are likely to be arrested for providing support to the militants voluntarily, while those found innocent have been released.

On October 31, authorities opened a stretch of Jammu-Rajouri national highway passing along the cordoned-off forest area after remaining closed for over two weeks.

The traffic between Bhimber Gali in Mendhar and Jera Wali Gali in Surankote along Jammu-Rajouri national highway was suspended on October 15 as a precautionary measure in view of the ongoing operation.

The officials said the search operation deep inside the forest area was continuing but there was no breakthrough against the holed-up militants who are avoiding direct contact with the search parties and are on the run taking advantage of the thick foliage, natural caves and difficult terrain.

The contact with the hiding militants was only established twice on October 11 at Surankote and Thanamandi and again at Bhata Durian on October 14, the officials said, adding after the fresh firing on October 24 in Bhata Durian which left the Pakistani militants killed, there was no contact with the militants.

A militant hideout was busted on October 26 during the operation, leading to
the recovery of an AK assault rifle with a magazine, 29 rounds, two grenades and two detonators besides some blankets, tiffins, two pairs of shoes, two syringes and four biscuit packets.

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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