Poonch Encounter Toll Reaches 9, Mother-Son Detained For Questioning

SRINAGAR: The armed forces have detained three members of a family including the mother to investigate if they have provided logistical support to the militants operating in the Poonch mountains. The detention followed after the recovery of bodies of two slain soldiers including a JCO, which brought the death toll in the week-long encounter to nine.

Reports appearing in the media said the army recovered the bodies of two army personnel, who had gone missing during the same encounter when it started in Nar Khas forest of Poonch. Those recovered from close to a forest stream on Saturday evening were identified as Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) Subedar Ajay Singh and Naik Harendra Singh.

“Subedar Ajay Singh and Naik Harendra Singh were part of search operations launched by the security forces to flush out terrorists hiding in the forested area,” a statement issued by the army said on Saturday. “On [Thurday], after a fierce firefight with the terrorists, the communication with [the two] was disrupted. Relentless operations continued to neutralize the terrorists and to re-establish communication with the soldiers. Subedar Ajay Singh and Naik Harendra Singh were killed in action in the fierce fight and their bodies have been recovered [on Saturday]. The operations in the area are continuing.”

The operation has been going on for the seventh day today. It started on October 11, when five army personnel, including a JCO, were ambushed in the Chamrer forests in Upper Surankote. As the soldiers chased the group, they entered the Rajouri belt in upper Surankote near Dera Ki Gali. Another encounter broke out in Nar Khas forests of Bhatta Durrian in upper Mandher on Thursday in which four soldiers were killed. Two bodies of the slain were recovered only on Saturday.

All four soldiers who were killed on Thursday were residents of Uttrakhand. Three belonged to Punjab, one to Kerala, and one was from UP.

The army on Saturday detained three persons, including a mother-son duo, for questioning. They are all residents of Bhatta Durrian forest village. They are being investigated about if they had provided food to the militants or sheltered them.

There were reports about the resumption of the encounter as both sides fired upon each other. But details were not immediately known

They were identified by Jammu based newspaper, Daily Excelsior as 45-year-old woman Zarina Akhter wife of Mohammad Farooq and her 19-year-old son Shafait, residents of Bhatta Durrian.

Police officers have told reports that the security grid has been chasing these groups for around two and a half months. “The presence of terrorists in the forest area connecting Poonch and Rajouri was observed two-and-a-half months ago and accordingly tactical operations were launched to track them down,” Vivek Gupta, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Rajouri-Poonch range was quoted saying to media. “A joint security grid was tracking different groups of terrorists but sometimes operations take time depending on the topography of the area. Contact with the terrorists was established thrice this week based on intelligence inputs.”

The army has taken the entire forest range under a tight cordon with limitations on the civilian movement in certain areas. Traffic between Mendhar and Thanamandi along the Jammu-Rajouri highway remained suspended for the third day on Sunday. Commando units have been deployed as a chopper has been pressed into service for surveillance of the entire belt. Officials estimate the group could comprise of three to four militants.

The encounter is seen to be one of the fiercest in the region’s history.

(Photograph used in this report has no direct link with the encounter)

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