Searches enter Day 5, JCO missing

Army personnel patrol near Bhatta Durrian forests in Mendhar on Friday. (Inset) Martyrs. -Excelsior/Rahi Kapoor
Army personnel patrol near Bhatta Durrian forests in Mendhar on Friday. (Inset) Martyrs. -Excelsior/Rahi Kapoor

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Oct 15: Gun battle in Pir Panjal mountains in the border district of Poonch entered Day 5 amidst reports that a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) was missing after martyrdom of two soldiers last night at Nar Khas jungles in Bhatta Durrian area of Mendhar tehsil even as para commandos have joined the searches while traffic on Bhimber Gali-Poonch National Highway remained suspended for second consecutive day today.
Reports said para commandos have joined the troops in search operations at Nar Khas and surrounding forests in Bhatta Durrian area of Mendhar to track down the militants whose number was stated to be three and they were accompanied by a Kashmiri guide. However, there was no official confirmation of this and some reports suggested that there could be two groups of militants–one each operating within the jurisdiction of Rajouri and Poonch districts.
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Yesterday, one JCO and an Army soldier were reported to have been martyred in fresh exchange of gun fighting with the militants at Nar Khas forests of Bhatta Durrian. However, the Army today said two Riflemen were martyred in the encounter. The JCO is reportedly missing.
“In an ongoing counter-terrorism operation in the general area of Nar Khas forest in Mendhar sub-division there was an exchange of fire between Army troops and terrorists during the evening hours of Thursday,” a defence Public Relation Officer (PRO) said.
During the exchange of fire, two Army personnel were critically injured and they later succumbed to their injuries, he said, adding that the operation is still going on.
Efforts are being made to trace the missing JCO and the area is prone to danger, the officials said.
The martyrs have been identified as Rifleman Vikram Singh Negi, 26. a resident of village Viman Gaon in Tehri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand and Rifleman Yogamvar Singh, 27, resident of village Sankari in Chamoli district of the same State.
“They displayed exemplary courage, devotion and made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty. The nation will always remain indebted to these brave hearts for their supreme sacrifice,” the Defence PRO said.
There were reports that two local persons have been detained by the police for questioning in connection with providing food and shelter to the militants. Official confirmation is, however, awaited.
On October 12, five Army personnel, including a JCO, were martyred in an encounter in Dera Ki Gali in the Surankote area of Poonch district.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police had said that the militants involved in the October 12 incident were in the area for two to three months.
Traffic on Bhimber Gali-Poonch highway remained suspended for second consecutive day today . Vehicular movement on the road was stopped yesterday after the killing of two Army soldiers as the forests overlook the highway.
Officials said it was yet to be confirmed whether there were two or even more groups of militants operating in Pir Panjal mountains or only one group was changing positions. They added that the things would be clear only when the militants are eliminated and their hideouts destroyed.
On September 12, a militant was killed in an encounter with security forces following a search operation in the upper reaches of Manjakote in Rajouri district.
On August 19, a JCO was martyred in an encounter with terrorists in Thannamandi area of Jammu and Kashmir”s Rajouri district.
On August 6, two Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorists were killed in an encounter with security forces in Thannamandi belt.