Security forces continue to battle militants in Poonch

January 7th, 2009 - 2:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, Jan 7 (IANS) The battle raging between militants and security forces in the mountainous forested area of Poonch district in Jammu and Kashmir continued for the seventh day Wednesday and army officials said the intruders had tried to breach the security cordon laid around the area overnight. Firing during Tuesday night and Wednesday morning indicated that the “terrorists are still present inside”, Brigadier General Staff (BGS) of 16 corps Brig Gurdeep Singh told reporters at a press conference near Pati Tar area where the operation is still on.

The battle between security forces and militants in the forests in Mendhar area of Poonch erupted last Thursday. The army laid siege to the Pati Tar peak in the middle of a forest near Mendhar following a tip-off about the presence of a group of hard core 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.

An official had Tuesday said that the security forces had laid a “three-tier cordon around the dense forested area of Pati Tar” and that they would launch a commando assault to flush the terrorists out.

Brig. Singh said the militants had tried to breach the cordon Tuesday night, “but the troops fired at them, pushing them back into the jungle”.

He said the exact number of militants hiding in the forests was not known. But Singh dismissed reports of them having built bunkers in the mountainous region.

“One thing is sure… there are no bunkers. The terrorists are using natural caves as their hideouts,” the official said.

According to him, 350 soldiers were deployed around the area to carry out the operation.

Singh said there were no air strikes planned. “The army is capable enough to succeed in this operation. But it is not possible to tell how long it will take,” he said.

Seven people - four militants and three security personnel - were killed in the first two days of the battle.

The army had recovered ammunition, communication equipment and ration from two hideouts busted last week.

Col. D.K. Kachari, spokesman of the Northern Command in Udhampur, had earlier said that the thick fog and the tough terrain were slowing their operation.

The forested area in Mendhar is on the map of traditional infiltration routes of militants sneaking into the Indian side from Pakistan across the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between the two countries.

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