Militants exchanging heavy gunfire with security forces in Bhati Dhar jungles of Poonch are suspected to be from Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group, army said on Wednesday, but did not specify any time frame for flushing them out.
"The holed up militants, who have been exchanging fire with the security forces for the last one week, seem to be from JeM based on the intercepts that we have got," Brigadier General Staff Brig Gurdeep Singh told reporters here.
Unlike operation 'Sarp Nash' in 2003 during which security forces had come across bunkers built by militants, Brig Singh said in the current operation, there were no such reports of bunkers being set up by the ultras in the forest area.
The militants were using natural caves with rocks around them as hideouts in the region, he said.
Replying to questions on the operation that began on January 1, he said, "it is not possible to specify as of now how long the operation will last."
The officer said the undulating forest terrain in the region and the weather were acting as major constraints for the army in flushing them out.
"We are carrying out a deliberate operation to wear out the terrorists and to ensure that the casualties among our own forces are avoided. That's why we are taking time to eliminate the terrorists holed up in Mendhar," Singh added.
Strongly denying reports that there were 1,500 troops deployed in the operation, the Brigadier said that there were just about 350 men on the ground as of now battling the terrorists.