The encounter between suspected militants and the army and police, which started on Thursday in Bhati Dhar near Poonch, is raging on, now for more than 60 hours. On Saturday the state police lost Special Police Officer (SPO) Naresh Kumar, while two Army personnel had died in the encounter before. Four militants have been killed also, though, according to SP (Operations) Poonch Javeed Iqbal the bodies of the militants killed in the encounter are yet to be recovered.
The Army and state police started the joint operation on Thursday to flush out militants, on learning about their hideout in the forests of Bhati Dhar, which is a 20-minute drive from Poonch town. There was heavy firing reported throughout Friday night. Iqbal said that the terrorists belonged to Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) and according to the inputs received they are not locals. However, it can’t be clarified if they were from Pakistan, he added.
“Firing had started on Saturday afternoon again when last reports came in. Since the encounter is taking place in a thick forest area, we suspect that the operation will be a long-drawn one,” said Col. D.K. Kachari, spokesman Northern Command of the Army, based at Udhampur. Meanwhile, police sources said they have arrested Muzaffar Shah, a retired Assistant Sub Inspector of police for “allegedly providing shelter and logistic support to these militants”.