Fierce gunbattle in Poonch continuing after 60 hours

January 4th, 2009 - 11:37 am ICT by IANS  

Jammu, Jan 4 (IANS) A fierce gunbattle between security forces and separatist militants continues to rage Sunday in the dense mountainous forest in frontier Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir after over 60 hours in which seven people - four militants and three security personnel - have been killed. The army laid siege to the Pati Tar mountainous forest near Mendhar in Poonch Thursday 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 army 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.

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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