The standoff between army troops and militants holed up inside the Mini Secretariat complex for the third day on Tuesday continued as as security personnel are yet to create a safe passage to enter the under-construction building.
To provide the elite 9 Para Commandos a passage, troops of the Engineers Regiment, immediately after Eid prayers in the border township, carried out series of blasts to make holes in its walls on the ground floor.
This, sources said had become necessary as repeated rocket attacks on the under-construction building had failed to breach any of its walls throughout the day on Monday. This took everyone by surprise over the quality of construction.
“It can withstand even tremors at 9 Richter scale,” said a local journalist Aijaz Kazmi.
While troops were apprehensive of militants laying a booby trap for them at the entrance of the building, it was not possible to enter it from the rooftop as it was made of tin sheets having slopes on all sides.
With the holed-up militants also make economic use of their ammunition, so as to save it to use against security personnel when they enter the building, the latter too did not appear to be in a hurry for an early end to the operation.
The holed up militants, who had not fired a single shot after Monday 10 am, suddenly responded to the army’s volley of shots and IED explosions on the building from various directions.
“As we have not suffered any fatal casualty so far, we have instructions to avoid it while neutralising the terrorists even if the operation takes some more days,” an official heading an army team on one side of the mini Secretariat building said.
The encounter, which started in Poonch town on Sunday morning has been the longest-ever in the border township. The last such attack was in 2003, when Deputy Superintendent of Police Manjit Singh and some civilians were killed.
It has also been the longest after terror strike at Pathankot Air Base where exchange of gunfire between Pakistani terrorists and security forces continued for nearly a week.
Four militants have so far been killed by army troops since Sunday evening. Of them, two were killed in Joginder Palace, a private building adjacent to Army’s Brigade headquarters in Poonch, where an elderly couple was rescued by troops after 11 hours of captivity.
Over 300 troops of Army and other security forces drawn from different locations are waiting to enter the under construction building from all sides since Sunday evening. The three-storeyed building has 87 rooms and 25 bathrooms with eight water and septic tanks.