The encounter in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district that entered its sixth day on Saturday has claimed the lives of nine soldiers. The toll rose after the bodies of the junior commissioned officer (JCO) and a jawan were recovered from Poonch’s Mendhar area today.
A massive search operation in the forest areas of Jammu and Kashmir’s twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri was launched earlier to track down terrorists involved in the killing of the Army soldiers. Officials told CNN-News18 that gunshots were heard as the joint search parties of the Army and the police resumed the operation in Poonch’s Mendhar area. However, it was not immediately clear whether it was speculative firing by the search parties or fresh contact was established with the terrorists, they said.
The area is mountainous and the forest is dense, which makes the operation difficult and dangerous, according to the officials. A vast forest area of Mendhar has been under tight security cordon since Thursday, when riflemen Vikram Singh Negi and Yogambar Singh, both from Uttarakhand, were killed in an encounter with terrorists in the Nar Khas forest.
Earlier on October 11, five Army personnel, including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO), were killed when terrorists attacked a search party in Poonch’s Surankote forest. There was an exchange of fire between the Army search parties and the fleeing terrorists in the adjoining Thanamandi forest in Rajouri the same day.
The officials said that the entire forest area from Mendhar to Thanamandi remains under a strict cordon and a massive search operation is on to neutralise the terrorists who are moving from one place to another in an attempt to escape the dragnet. The traffic between Mendhar and Thanamandi along the Jammu-Rajouri highway remained suspended for the second day in view of the ongoing operation, they said.
On Tuesday, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Rajouri-Poonch range, Vivek Gupta had said that the terrorists involved in the attack on security forces in Poonch had been present in the area for the last two to three months. Rajouri and Poonch in the Jammu region have witnessed a rise in infiltration attempts since June this year, resulting in the killing of nine terrorists in separate encounters.
Meanwhile, a defence spokesperson said that the mortal remains of riflemen Negi and Singh were flown to Uttarakhand in a service aircraft this morning after a wreath-laying ceremony. The aircraft will reach the Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun by 11.30 am, he said.
From the airport, the mortal remains of the soldiers will be taken to their home towns by road and their last rites will be conducted with full military honours, he said.
(With PTI inputs)