Poonch encounter ends,finally :Mukhtar Ahmad In Srinagar

9 01 2009

January 09, 2009 02:14 IST
Last Updated: January 09, 2009 12:58 IST

Source: Rediff

The nine-day-long gun battle in the Bhatidar forest area of Poonch district has officially been called off even though deliberate searches shall continue in the area “to look for any tell-tale signs there”.

So far, two Army troopers, one special police officer (SPO) and four militants have been killed in this operation against the militants. But the bodies of the slain militants have not yet been recovered.

Having spilled over more than nine days, this is the longest operation carried out by the Army against the militants ever since the present violence started here in 1989.

“The possibility of the terrorists having slipped out taking advantage of the rugged terrain and the prevailing climatic conditions cannot be ruled out,” said the statement issued Friday by the Indian army’s [Images] 16th Corps whose trooped engaged the militants for nine days in the Bhatidar forests of Mendhar area of Poonch district.

Brigadier General Staff of 16 Corps, Brigadier Gurdeep Singh had ruled out the possibility of the militants having used concrete bunkers during the encounter with the army troopers in the area.

“They had used natural caves in the area as their hiding places. During the course of the flushing out operations a couple of natural caves were destroyed,” he said.

“Deliberate searches in the area will continue to look for any tell tales signs,” the army’s spokesman said.

Seven people, including four militants and three security personnel, were killed in the first three days of the battle that began Jan 1. But the army has not yet recovered the bodies of the killed militants.

A source in the army said no exchange of fire had taken place with the hiding terrorists throughout Thursday, though the troops had been on alert.

The soldiers had busted three hideouts and all they found were edible oil, dal, rice and cooking gas cylinders. “All the caves where the militants were hiding had two openings,” the army source said.

The battle started when terrorists killed two army men – a junior commissioned officer and a soldier – while they were laying a cordon.

The militants had taken away the rifle of the JCO, whose body was found two days later.

Singh had said the militants tried to breach the cordon Tuesday night “but the troops fired at them pushing them back into the jungle”.

Mendhar has always been a traditional infiltration route of militants sneaking into the Indian side from Pakistan across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir between the two countries. It provides access to the Kashmir Valley through mountain passes.

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Threat from sea looms large: IB Vicky Nanjappa

9 01 2009

January 09, 2009 14:46 IST
Source: Rediff.com

The threat from the sea continues to loom large over the country and the attacks on Mumbai, where the terrorists arrived in the city on a boat, is just a beginning.

According to intelligence agencies, nearly 1,200 islands surrounding the country are vulnerable to terrorists.

This has been confirmed by two suspected militants in the Karnataka police’s custody. Tausif and Firoze — picked up recently for their alleged connection with Riyaz Bhatkal, the Lashkar-e-Tayiba [Images] terrorist — told the police that Bhatkal had told them that the Lashkar wants to convert the coastal belts into terror bastions.

The islands, which are said to be on the radar of the Lashkar and its terror twin, the Jaish-e-Mohammad, are located around Kerala [Images], some of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, Purbasha island near Bangladesh, the Lakshwadeep islands and the coastal belts of Karnataka.

Intelligence Bureau officers told rediff.com that the idea to convert the islands into terror nodes is a plan currently being executed both by the Lashkar and the Jaish.

“There are nearly 1,200 uninhabited islands surrounding India and the Lashkar and Jaish are aware of this. They are recruiting more and more youth to take over such islands so that it could be used as terror bases,” an IB officer, speaking on condition that he would not be identified for this report, said.

Both the Lashkar and Jaish are said to have begun training would-be terrorists in deep sea diving and maritime operations; the Mumbai [Images] attackers had sophisticated maritime skills, one retired Indian admiral noted at a recent conference in Washington, DC.

The home ministry has asked all states with a coastline to remain vigilant at all times.

Sources in the Karnataka police say they, along with other state police forces, have been directed to set up coastal police stations.