The exchange of fire between security forces and a group of terrorists hiding in Mendhar forests began Monday as the gun battle in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir that has so far witnessed the killing of nine soldiers resumed on the eighth day at the break of dawn.
“As per inputs, 3-4 terrorists are engaged in the gunfight,” the sources said. Paratroopers were inducted on Saturday to take on the heavily-armed militants hiding in the forests. The union territory witnesses one of the deadliest encounters post abrogation of Article 370, removing special status to the erstwhile state.
Official sources said the joint team of Army, police, paramilitary troops, and elite commandos were already searching the Nar Khas forests of Mendhar. Helicopters are also being used to track down the terrorists. “The terrorists are holed up in a densely forested area and firing intermittently, which is effectively being retaliated by the search parties,” they said. Army personnel have been advancing cautiously as the terrorists, who are heavily armed, appear to be well entrenched in the forests, the sources said.
In the week-long gunfight that started on October 11, nine Army personnel, including two Junior Commissioned Officers, have been martyred. The operation to flush the terrorists out has proved challenging, mainly due to the rugged terrain and dense forests, thus prolonging the gun battles.
Security forces, as per sources, have also detained two persons for allegedly providing logistics support to the terrorists.
“During searches based on intelligence inputs, two persons have been detained for providing food and shelter to a group of heavily armed terrorists,” the sources said. The detainees were being questioned for more details.
The National Highway 144-A, connecting Poonch district headquarter with Rajouri and Jammu, was partially opened on Monday after remaining closed between Bhimber Gali and Jarran Wali Gali till Sunday.