SECURITY FORCES busted a militant hideout and recovered some arms and ammunition during a search operation in Bhata Dhurian forest, in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir, on Tuesday, officials said.
The search operation, in the forests between Dehra Ki Gali and Bhimber Gali in Poonch district, to flush out a group of militants who have killed nine security personnel since October 11, entered the 16th day on Tuesday.
Officials said the seizures included an AK rifle with ammunition, two grenades, two detonators, two syringes, four biscuit packets, a sling, socks, a T-shirt, jacket, blankets and shoes. There was some cooked food, burnt grass and bullet shells, said sources. A senior police officer said the seizures indicated that it was a small group of militants.
Meanwhile, sources said three residents of Mendhar, in Poonch district, were detained from the India-Nepal border in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday for suspected links with the militants. The trio have been identified as Mohammad Noor alias Noori of Gulhutta, and Mohammad Rashid and Yasar Arafat, both from Bhata Dhurian. Sources said they were on their way to Kathmandu, from where they were headed to Saudi Arabia. The men have been brought to Mendhar, where they are being questioned.
Ten others, including a 45-year-old woman and her son, have been detained since October 17-18 on suspicion of providing logistical support to militants. Sources said they are all being questioned.
On October 11, five security personnel, including a JCO, were killed in an encounter with militants at Chamrel forest, near Mughal Road which connects Poonch district in Jammu division with Shopian in Kashmir. Even as the search operation continued, four more security personnel, including a JCO, were killed in Bhata Dhurian forest, in Mendhar, on October 14.
On October 24, a jailed Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist, who was taken on transit remand to lead security forces to the militant hideout, was killed, and two J&K policemen and an Army soldier injured. The terrorist was identified as Zia Mustafa, a Pakistani national who was arrested in 2003 as the mastermind of the Nadimarg massacre in Pulwama district in South Kashmir in which 24 Kashmiri Pandits were killed.
According to sources, a group of 10 militants is suspected to have crossed the LoC in August. There were three encounters in and around Rajouri in August-September. While Army sources said there was nothing yet to link these three encounters to the attacks in Poonch, police sources pointed to a chain of events. “A joint security grid was tracking different groups of militants, but operations take time sometimes, depending on the topography of the area. Contact with the militants was established thrice this week, based on intelligence inputs,” a senior police officer said earlier.
However, sources said it was unusual for infiltrators to remain “underground” in Poonch for over two months. They usually stay in the area for a couple of days, before moving on to Shopian in South Kashmir, they said. Army sources said if the militants were in Poonch since August, it could either mean that they feared getting caught, or that they intended to carry out attacks in the area.
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