South Asian Insider
Opinion and Editorial
Poonch encounter: Army's longest operation against terrorists since 2009
In 2009, Poonch was the theatre of a nine-day operation and encounter with terrorists - January 1-9. Four soldiers, including a junior commissioned officer (JCO), lost their lives. Four terrorists were said to have been killed in the encounter. However, their bodies were not recovered from the encounter site. Search and combing operations were stopped after nine days. Nearly 13 years since then, another operation entered its tenth day on Wednesday in the same Poonch district. The operation began on October 11, when the encounter began at Dera Ki Gali area of Surankot tehsil in the Poonch district. The operation was launched on the basis of intelligence inputs about a big troupe of terrorists present in the area. A search operation led to an encounter with the terrorists. In the first encounter, five soldiers, including one JCO, lost their lives on October 11. On October 14, another round of intense exchange of fire took place. Two soldiers lost their lives. Later, the bodies of a JCO and another jawan were found at the encounter site. Nine soldiers, including two JCOs, have lost their lives since the operation began. The Indian Army has deployed a specially trained unit of para-commandos for the combing operation. Drones and modern weapons are being used to track down terrorists operating in the forests. Information about the ground situation is not clearly known. The Indian Army has only issued written statements till now. Media personnel are not allowed within 11 km of the forests where the encounter is taking place. Indian Army chief General MM Naravane reviewed the situation this week, ending his two-day visit on Tuesday evening, after which the forces were reportedly preparing for the final assault. The villagers were asked, in an announcement made from loudspeakers atop mosques, to return home from agricultural fields and stay indoors to avoid collateral damage. The security forces also detained some people on suspicion of providing logistical support to the terrorists. It is a densely forested area and reports quoting experts say that the scale of the encounter indicates the presence of a huge group of terrorists. Some of the experts suspect the presence of Pakistan Army officers providing operational leadership to terrorists engaged on the ground. It is being speculated that the over-a-year-long involvement of the Indian forces in the eastern Ladakh sector due to a military standoff with China might have "weakened" the counter-infiltration grid on the western sector along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir. The terrorists might have been in the forests for about two months, reports quoting sources in the security forces said. Some believe that the group of terrorists could be involved in a series of attacks and encounters that have taken place since August in the Poonch-Rajouri region. The first major encounter took place on August 6 - the day after the second anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370, when two terrorists were killed in the Pangai forest of Thanamandi area of Rajouri. Another encounter took place in the same area on August 19. Two soldiers, including a JCO, were killed in an encounter. On September 13, one terrorist was killed in the Manjakote area of Rajouri. These incidents, security forces believe, could be linked to the ongoing encounter.
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