Poonch shootout on, four militants among seven killed (Lead)

January 4th, 2009 - 9:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, Jan 4 (IANS) The gun battle in a Jammu and Kashmir border district continued for the fourth day Sunday, in which seven people - four militants and three security personnel - have been killed, defence sources said.The shootout between security forces and militants in frontier Poonch district erupted Thursday in a dense forested area.

The army laid siege to the Pati Tar mountainous forest near Mendhar in Poonch district following a tip off about the presence of a group of hardcore militants in hideouts there.

Some top commanders of Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror outfits are reported to be present in the hideouts.

The army lost two soldiers when they came under heavy fire while laying cordon.

Col. D.K. Kachari, spokesman of the Northern Command at Udhampur, said the troops had killed four militants but their bodies were not recovered. He said: “Soldiers on the ground have sighted the bodies.”

In the continuing gun battle, one Special Police Officer (SPO)– temporary recruits in police to assist anti-militancy operations — Naresh Kumar, was killed Saturday.

Senior army and police officers are camping in the area to monitor the situation.

An official said: “We do not have any idea about the number of militants present there as they are firing from different positions, which means that either they are changing their locations or have split themselves in groups.”

He said the militants were equipped with heavy weaponry and have a large quantity of arms and ammunition with them. “They are frequently firing from Pica Guns.”

“We also cannot say as to how long this operation will last,” he added.

The police said they had arrested Muzaffar Shah, a retired assistant sub-inspector of police, from nearby Bhati Dhar area for “allegedly providing shelter and logistic support to the militants”. He has been sent to the Joint Interrogation Centre in Jammu for further questioning.

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