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.