It was an encounter that never happened.
The army, police and BSF personnel called off their combat-style search on Friday evening, convinced there were no militants hiding in a 28-acre sugarcane field on the outskirts of Gurdaspur’s Tibri cantonment as reported by villagers.
The security forces had arrived in armoured cars on Thursday afternoon, carrying rocket launchers and latest weapons to catch two ‘militants’ who appeared to have vanished into thin air. The operation followed an alert that a drone had located the presence of the duo.
Drones continued to scan the field during the operation, as did helicopters. The combing ended without a shot being fired. Nobody was arrested and no weapon seized.
On high alert, the army had cordoned the area around Tibri cantonment on Thursday, barely a kilometre from the sugarcane field where villagers reportedly spotted the two suspects.
The search was intensified early Friday morning with scores of police along with SWAT and BSF personnel moving into the field. Combat and armoured circled the area, while the Gurdaspur-Tibri stretch was closed for traffic.
About 20 teams comprising 20 members each conducted the search that ended fruitlessly.
The police, though, said the forces were maintaining high alert and would continue searching the buildings and adjoining areas.
“We have not recovered anything nor arrested any person, but we are not lowering our guard. We acted on a similar input from Bamial area near Pathankot,” DIG (border range) Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh told HT.
Gurdaspur SSP Gurpreet Singh Toor said the siege laid by the forces around the area would continue.
Meanwhile, police said locals who had informed about the ‘militants’ were being cross-examined.
Some residents of Pandher and Bhulle Chak villages had left their homes in panic, while others stayed indoors during and after the operation.