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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Poonch-Rajouri military operation enters 20th day; reports say part of forest has caught fire

A search operation to track down a group of militants entered the 20th day on Saturday in the forest belt of Jammu and Kashmir’s twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri, where nine Indian soldiers were killed in two separate attacks, officials said.

The operation in Bhatti Durian in Mendhar along with Surankote forest in Poonch district and nearby Thanamandi in Rajouri started on October 11, they said.

Reports said that a fire has been raging in part of the forest where search operation is going on.

A Pakistani militant, who was moved from the Kot Bhalwal Central Jail in Jammu to Mendhar on police remand for questioning in connection with the ongoing operation, was killed while armed forces accompanying him to identify a hideout came under fire from hiding militants on October 24. There was a buzz on social media that the incarcerated militant was used as a human shield.

The contact with the hiding militants was only established twice on October 11 at Surankote and Thanamandi and again at Bhatti Durian on October 14, resulting in the killing of nine army personnel, including two Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs). Five of them were killed in Surankote and four in Mendhar.

After the firing on October 24 in Bhatti Durian which left the Pakistani slain, there was no contact with the hiding militants even as a massive joint search operation by the army and the police continued and a hideout was busted leading to the recovery of an AK assault rifle, some ammunition and other articles such as food, blankets, and shoes.

An army officer said 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 thick foliage, natural caves, and difficult terrain.

The entire forest area is under a tight security cordon, the officer said.

The officials said smoke was seen billowing from deep inside the forest at a few places after dry grass caught fire during the ongoing operation. The fire, however, was put off by the search parties.

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

Meanwhile, traffic between Bhimber Gali and Jera Wali Gali in Mendhar along the Jammu-Rajouri highway remained suspended as a precautionary measure for the 15th day on Saturday in view of the ongoing operation.

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