The longest encounter between security forces and terrorists since the Pathankot Air Base attack ended on Tuesday evening in Poonch, with the Army’s elite 9 Para commandos recovering two bodies of terrorists from inside an under-construction mini-Secretariat complex.
With this, the total number of terrorists killed in the twin terror strikes in Poonch since Sunday morning, when the encounter began, has risen to four.
The two other bodies were recovered from Joginder Palace, a private building adjacent to the Army’s Brigade Headquarters in the border town. An elderly couple was rescued from the building after 11 hours of captivity.
The commandos entered the mini-Secretariat complex around 3 pm after blasting the outer walls of the building with IED, using the help of the Corps of Engineers. They went through all the three floors of the building complex one by one, including with sniffer dogs, before concluding that the men had been killed.
As the Army declared the operation over, thousands entered the premises, raising pro-Army, pro-India and anti-Pakistan slogans. Police had a difficult time controlling the crowds.
The Army said investigations would be conducted later on the basis of seized arms, explosives and other material to ascertain the identity of the men. Sources said preliminary investigations indicated the men owed allegiance to the Lashkar-e-Toiba and came from across the Line of Control.
The security forces, which numbered more than 300, drawn from different locations, waited till the end of the Eid prayers before setting off blasts in the walls of the mini-Secretariat complex. Rocket attacks throughout the day on Monday had failed to breach the walls.
While the terrorists did not fire a single shot between Monday 10 am till Tuesday, they reacted with a volley of shots when the Army forced its way in Tuesday. An Army official said they had instructions to avoid casualties as far as possible, which was one reason the operation got extended.
Army officials said police too may have delayed matters by insisting that its men enter the premises first. One constable was killed and two policemen injured in the firing. Two Armymen and a civilian also received injuries. This was the longest ever encounter in Poonch, which last saw an attack in 2003.