Eighth day and Poonch battle rages on

January 8th, 2009 - 12:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, Jan 8 (IANS) The gunbattle between militants and security forces in a forested area of Jammu and Kashmir’s mountainous Poonch district entered its eighth day Thursday with soldiers continuing to fight weather and the tough terrain to eliminate the infiltrators.The shootout in the forests of Mendhar area of Poonch erupted last Thursday after the Indian Army laid siege to the Pati Tar peak in the middle of a forest following a tip-off about the presence of a group of hardcore militants there.

Some top commanders of the Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror outfits are believed to be hiding there.

Firing resumed early Thursday morning, an army official said, adding that “weather and tough terrain” were the main hindrances in the operation.

Seven people, including four militants and three security personnel, were killed in the first two days of the operation, according to a defence spokesperson. But the bodies of the militants have not been recovered. “Soldiers on the ground have sighted the bodies,” he said.

Brigadier General Staff (BGS) of 16 Corps Brig. Gurdeep Singh told reporters near Pati Tar area Wedensday that the army was taking its time to “minimise the casualties and wear out” the terrorists.

“It is not possible to tell how long it will take to conclude the operation,” Singh said.

There was still no word about the number of terrorists holed up inside the forest. But the army official said “one thing is sure that there are no bunkers. The terrorists are using natural caves as their hideouts”.

According to the official, only 350 soldiers were deployed around the area to carry out the operation and the commandos were on stand by. He ruled out the possibility of carrying out air strikes.

The army recovered ammunition, communications equipment and rations from the two hideouts busted earlier last week.

Mendhar sector, around 250 km from Jammu, has always been a traditional infiltration route of militants sneaking into the Indian side from Pakistan across the Line of Control (LoC). It has accessibility to the Kashmir Valley through mountain passes.

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