‘Potential Tragedy’ Averted as Army Defuses IED Fitted in Tree in Poonch District

During a massive search operation against holed-up terrorists in the dense forests of Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch and Rajouri districts, Indian Army troops have recovered an improvised explosive device (IED) and later defused it in Poonch district, a defence spokesman said. An army patrol party on Thursday detected the IED fitted in the branch of a tree in the forest area of Sawalkot in Ratangir ridge, he said.

The IED was destroyed later, the spokesman added. With the destruction of the IED, a potential tragedy was averted.

On Friday, the operation entered the 12th day where nine army personnel were killed in two separate attacks last week. However, officials aware of the development said, there was no contact with the terrorists as the joint search parties of the army and special operations group of local police moved cautiously in the dense forests of Mendhar and Surankote in Poonch and Thanamandi in Rajouri, clearing a vast area during the day.

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Loud explosions and gunfire rattled Bhatta Durrian earlier during the day which turned out to be the speculative fire used by the search parties to sanitise a suspected location deep inside the forest belt in Mendhar. The army had on Tuesday intensified the operation against the holed-up terrorists in Bhatta Durrian forest in Mendhar, where the locals were asked not to venture out of their homes.

Army Chief General M M Naravane had recently visited forward areas along the LoC to review the ground situation and ongoing counter-infiltration operations. The operation in the forest areas in the twin border districts commenced on October 11 when terrorists ambushed a search party killing five soldiers including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) in the Surankote forest of Poonch before another gunfight in nearby Thanamandi on the same day. The terrorists fled both places after the encounters.

On October 14, the terrorists struck again and killed four soldiers including a JCO in Nar Khas forest in Mendhar as the security forces extended the cordon and search operation to neutralize the fleeing terrorists.

Drones and helicopters were pressed into service to assist the marching troops, which included para-commandos, in the jungle spread over nearly 8 km X 2 km area at a distance of four km from the Line of Control, the officials said. The entire forest belt is still under tight security cordon to neutralise the terrorists, the officials said, adding the area is mountainous and the forest is dense, making the operation difficult and dangerous.

Eight suspected persons including a mother-son duo were detained for questioning from Bhatta Durrian in connection with providing logistic support to the terrorists. However, it is to be seen whether the support was given voluntarily or under duress, the officials said. The traffic between Mendhar and Thanamandi along the Jammu-Rajouri highway remained suspended as a precautionary measure for the in the wake of the ongoing operation.

Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu region have witnessed a rise in infiltration attempts since June this year, resulting in the killing of nine terrorists in separate encounters.

(with inputs from PTI)

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