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Army encounters embarrassment
Shariq Majeed
Tribune News Service

Reluctant admission: The militants it engaged in one of the longest, nine-day, gunbattles in Mendhar of Poonch, have apparently escaped. Two of its officers died in the encounter but it is yet to recover the bodies of the four militants it claimed to have killed.

Rajouri, January 9
Even as the Army suffered a huge embarrassment after it admitted that militants engaged with it, in one of the longest gunbattles in the Bain forest of Bhatti Dhar area of Mendhar in Poonch, may have escaped in the nine-day-long operation, it reportedly continued to search the forest.

Army sources said that even after it called off operation Bhatti Dhar and admitted that “possibility of terrorists having slipped out taking advantage of the rugged terrain and prevailing climatic conditions cannot be ruled out”, it continued to search the densely forested area and has reportedly blasted the huge rocks where a hollow space, which formed a perfect place for militants to hide in, existed. The source added that the Army had busted three hideouts yesterday and had recovered cooking oil, dal, 20 kg rice and a gas cylinder.

Sources had further said that there was no firing from militants’ side since the morning of January 7, suggesting that militants may had either been killed or escaped. The second option was more likely since the security forces had laid a three-tier cordon in the area where militants were holed up.

Army sources added that even as the Army has claimed that it had killed four militants in the operation on January 1, it didn’t recover the body of even a single slain militant reportedly killed. The sources expressed shock that two Army personnel, including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO), and a Special Police Officer (SPO) sacrificed their lives.

Operations to flush out terrorists holed up in the forest area of the Mendhar continued on January 8 by a number of tactically organised teams.

Col DK Kachari, public relations officer, ministry of defence, Northern Command, said that the operations to flush out terrorists holed up in the forest area continued on January 8. “There were numerous inputs about the presence of terrorists, including a contact, on January 2009 when a JCO and an SPO were killed in action. During the course of flushing out operations a couple of natural caves were destroyed.

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