FIVE SOLDIERS KILLED IN POONCH: ENCOUNTER STILL ON, MILITANTS SUSPECTED TO HAVE CROSSED LOC
A Junior Commissioned Officer and four jawans were killed Monday morning in an encounter with a group of heavily armed militants in the dense forests of Chamred on the Mughal Road, which connects Jammu’s border Poonch district with Shopian in Kashmir. It was after 17 years that the area saw such a deadly encounter, the last being in 2004, when four soldiers had been killed.
Till Monday evening, the operation was still on, and had spread to adjoining Rajouri district’s Pangai area, with militants, believed to be four to five in number, taking on security forces there. Officials suspect the militants are part of the group that infiltrated across the Line of Control in Poonch in August.
Confirming the casualties, the Army PRO, Lt Colonel Devender Anand, said the soldiers were on a search and combing operation, which had been launched Sunday night based on intelligence inputs.
While the five were taken to hospital, they succumbed to their injuries, he said. The five deceased were identified as Naib Subedar Jaswinder Singh of Mana Talwandi in Kapurthala, Naik Mandeep Singh of Chalha in Gurdaspur, Sepoy Gajjan Singh of Pancharanda village in Ropar (all three from Punjab), besides Sepoy Saraj Singh of Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, and Sepoy Vaisakh H of Kerala’s Kollam district.
The security forces were yet to determine where the militants came from, sources said. The encounter site is almost equidistant from not just Rajouri and Poonch but also Shopian.
The Armymen who were killed in the encounter on Monday.
The group that had infiltrated across the LoC in August, and was believed to be headed for Shopian, had been intercepted by police and security forces in the Pangai area. Two of the militants were subsequently killed on August 6 and another on August 19.
Officials said they had been tipped off about the presence of militants at Dehra Ki Gali in Poonch and hence launched the operation Sunday night from two sides — Poonch’s Buffliaz and Rajouri’s Thanamandi. The deceased soldiers were part of one of the advance search parties, who came under attack while making their way through a forest.
More reinforcements have been rushed to the area to contain the militants.
Barring areas along the LoC, the districts of Rajouri and Poonch have been largely peaceful for over a decade. However, in the past few months, militancy-related activities have been on the rise in the interior areas. In early August, militants had hurled a hand grenade at the residence of a local BJP leader in Rajouri town’s Khandali area, killing a two-year-old child and injuring several.
Last month, police and Army had busted a module of the Jammu and Kashmir Ghaznabi Force in Poonch district and apprehended three people, along with two pistols, four Chinese grenades and 100 pistol rounds.
In the 2004 encounter, four soldiers had been killed and three had sustained injuries when militants had ambushed an Army patrol at village Kholeyanwali in Surankote area.