Poonch: Army will go to final assault to drive out militants
Just hours after Army Chief of Staff General MM Naravane concluded his two-day visit to Jammu and returned to Delhi, Army troops began preparing for a final assault on suspected militants on Tuesday night. of being hidden within the forests of Nar in Bhata Durian. area in Mendhar tehsil of the Poonch district.
A senior Army official said they have called on local residents to return to their homes and stay indoors to avoid collateral damage to civilians during the ongoing operation against the militants.
Villagers said the appeals, made from mosque loudspeakers, asked them to leave whatever work they were doing and immediately return to their homes along with their children and livestock.
The operation to hunt down the militants has so far had little success, with the Army deploying illuminating bombs to illuminate the forest terrain, as well as paracommands, drones and a helicopter. Police and the army have cordoned off the area to make sure the militants do not escape.
Sources said there has been no contact with militants since Saturday morning and that troops have been engaging in “speculative fire” while making tactical advances inside the forests. They admitted that they have not been able to see the militants despite aerial surveillance.
Nine soldiers, including two commissioned noncommissioned officers (JCOs) have been killed in action against militants in the Poonch district forests since October 11, making it the deadliest encounter in the area in the past 17 years and the longest at J&K since the repeal of Article 370 in August 2019.
Early Tuesday morning, Army Chief General MM Naravane visited advanced areas of Poonch, including Bhimber Gali, from where the militants are suspected of escaping to the Bhata Durian forests. Four soldiers were killed on October 14 in an exchange of gunfire with the militants, who, according to security forces, may have been present in the area for up to two months, after infiltrating across the border.
General Naravane, who was briefed on the security situation and operational readiness by the Commanding General Officer of the White Knight Corps, also interacted with troops and commanders on the ground in advanced areas.
So far, the police have detained eight villagers in the Bhata Durian area, including a 45-year-old woman and her son, on suspicion of providing logistical support to the militants.
While Army sources said it was unclear whether the October 11 and 14 incidents involved the same group, a senior police officer said they believe the militants were acting together and had changed locations.
In August-September, the forces participated in three encounters in the general Rajouri area. On August 6, two militants were killed in the Pangai forest of Thanamandi; on August 19, in the same area, two soldiers, including a JCO, were killed in a confrontation; and on September 13, a militant was killed in Manjakote in Rajouri. Law enforcement sources now believe that all of these encounters were part of a chain of events.
Jammu Police Additional Director General Mukesh Singh visited Bhimber Gali on Sunday and officers expressed confidence in targeting militants.