Army keeps up search for militants in Poonch

January 9th, 2009 - 11:37 am ICT by IANS  

Jammu, Jan 9 (IANS) The army Friday kept up the search for militants who escaped from a dense forest in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir after an eight-day battle with security forces.There was a “possibility of terrorists having slipped out taking advantage of the rugged terrain and prevailing climatic conditions”, the army said late Thursday night.

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.

The Brigadier General Staff (BGS) of 16 Corps Brig Gurdeep Singh told the media Wednesday: “Weather and terrains were the main hindrances in the progress of the operations.”

He said there was no idea how many militants were inside the forest, “but one thing is sure that there are no bunkers. The terrorists are using natural caves as their hideouts”.

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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