As operation enters Day 8, Army chief reaches Jammu on 2-day visit

Troops during search operation in dense Bhatta Durrian forests of Mendhar on Monday. -Excelsior/Rahi Kapoor
Troops during search operation in dense Bhatta Durrian forests of Mendhar on Monday. -Excelsior/Rahi Kapoor

Naravane reviews situation, tours forward areas

6 more detained for providing shelter to militants

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Oct 18: As search operation in dense forests of Pir Panjal mountains entered Day 8 today with success against militants remaining elusive, Army chief Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane reached here this afternoon on two-day visit of the region and reviewed situation along Line of Control (LoC) and hinterland with particular reference to the ongoing operations with top Army Commanders and later toured forward areas in the border district of Rajouri.

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The Army chief met top Army Commanders at Nagrota headquarters of 16 Corps also known as White Knight Corps and was reported to have reviewed anti-infiltration measures and counter-militancy steps with major focus on Bhatta Durrian operation in which nine Army soldiers, two of them JCOs, have been martyred while no militant has been killed so far even as the operation entered eighth day today.
After high-level review of the situation, the Chief of Army Staff visited several forward areas on the LoC in Rajouri district during which he met the Field Commanders and the troops guarding frontiers with Pakistan.
Troops have been maintaining very high alert along LoC in twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri especially after fall of Afghanistan to Taliban though no major infiltration attempt has been detected during past few days.
However, there were reports that the militant group operating in Bhatta Durrian forests in Mendhar which initially struck at Chamrer forests of Surankote, bordering Panghai area of Thannamandi in Rajouri district, had infiltrated about two to three months back from the LoC and had lost track to Shopian in South Kashmir where they intended to reach through Pir Panjal mountains.
Security forces had been searching for them in different forest areas for past several days. The contact was, however, established on October 11 in which five Army jawans including one JCO were martyred. During further searches, the contact was established for second time at Bhatta Durrian forests on October 14 in which four more soldiers were martyred.
Search operations today entered into eighth day in Bhatta Durrian forests. Though Army fired heavily aiming the directions where the militants could be hiding, sources said, a direct contact with the militants hasn’t been established since October 14.
Police, meanwhile, detained six more persons for providing food and shelter to the militants in Bhatta Durrian.
They have been identified as Mohammad Mahroof son of Bhag Hussain and Abdul Hamid son of Furqan, both residents of Sangiot, Mir Hussain son of Dost Mohammad of village Chandial, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Mushtaq and Khurshid Mohammad, all residents of Bhatta Durrian.
A day before, police had detained mother-son duo including Zareen Akhter and Shafait Mohammad on the same charges.
With six more detentions, total number of civilians detained for providing shelter and food to the militants has gone up to eight.
“As the militants have lost route to Shopian and were roaming in the forests, a number of locals living in vicinity of dense forests, might have provided food to the militants at gun point. The militants are reportedly hiding in the forests for past two to three months,” sources pointed out.
Though there has been no confirmed report about exact number of militants hiding in the forests, sources said their numbers could be minimum between three to four or at the most between five to six.
However, they appeared to be battle hardened militants and possibility that they might have been trained directly by the Pakistani army commandos is not ruled out.