Updated: September 12, 2016 4:11:21 am
A police constable was killed and five others — two Armymen, two police personnel, and a civilian — were injured after two groups of heavily armed militants attacked Poonch town on Sunday morning.
Three militants were killed by the Army and police after daylong encounters at two locations. Searches were under way at both locations to rule out the possibility of any more militants still hiding out.
One group of militants was holed up inside a private building next to the Army’s brigade headquarters at Allapeer; another in an under-construction building opposite the office of the district police chief.
Inspector General of Police Johny William, who continues to hold charge as DIG of the twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch as he awaits a new posting, said, “We had got information about the presence of terrorists in the morning. Unfortunately, we have lost one of our brave men in the firefight with terrorists. Our searches are in progress and we cannot say the operation is over.”
There was a potential hostage situation at Joginder Mahal, the private building next to the brigade HQ. The militants were holding Haji Nazir Mir and his wife Mumtaz Mir, members of the well-known Mir family, which has old connections to the Congress in the border district. Haji Nazir Mir is a cousin of the Congress MLC Jahangir Hussain Mir, deputy chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council.
Both Haji Nazir and his wife, who had locked themselves inside a room in the building, were rescued unhurt after the encounter ended around 7 pm.
The other group of militants was entrenched in the Mini Secretariat building opposite the office of the district Superintendent of Police. The encounter at this location too ended around the same time.
Inspector General of Police, Jammu Zone, Danish Rana said the body of one of the militants had been recovered. “The cordon in the area will remain intact till tomorrow as operation is on,” PTI quoted him as saying.
Earlier in the evening, Poonch Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Harun Malik had said operations at both locations were in the final stages. Army and police commandos had stormed the Mini Secretariat complex, and preparations were on to launch a final assault on the militants in Joginder Mahal, he had said.
Teams of elite 9 Para and National Security Guard commandos had landed in Poonch.
“There has been firing on police parties from different places, from inside the house (Joginder Mahal), from Mini Secretariat and also from the roof of a kuchcha house,” a police official said, adding that things would be clear only after the militants had been neutralised.
Sources identified the deceased policeman as Selection Grade Constable Rajinder Kumar, and his injured collagues as Sub Inspector Manzoor Ahmed and Constable Mohammad Shahnaz.
The identities of the two injured Army personnel were not immediately known.
Sources said the fifth injured person is Tariq Ahmed, a domestic help at the house of Haji Nazir. Tariq was shot at as he tried to open the door of the kitchen where the militants were allegedly hiding.
The attacks came ahead of Eid in a town where 15 people were injured in a grenade attack on pilgrims, and some ISIS posters were seized by the police only last month. The presence of the militants on Sunday was, however, detected only after Haji Nazir rang up his elder brother Muneer in Jammu, asking him to inform the police and Army about the presence of militants inside his house.
The couple had locked themselves inside a room, Muneer told The Indian Express. “I contacted my younger brother Taj Mir in Poonch around 6 am and he contacted the police before rushing to the spot himself,” Muneer said.
Sources said the militants appeared to have entered Joginder Mahal and the Mini Secretariat building in the wee hours. Only a wall separates Joginder Mahal from the 93 Brigade headquarters. According to a member of the Mir family, it once formed part of the HQ premises and was used as an Officers’ Mess by the Army until a few years ago, when Haji Nazir got the building vacated after litigation.
Nazir and his wife live on the first floor of the building, which is under renovation. The ground floor is lying vacant. Firing began from inside the kitchen on the first floor after police cordoned off the building. Around the same time, police were surprised by the second group which started firing from the Mini Secretariat building.
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