Poonch encounter: Difficult terrains give tough time to Army to flush out terrorists
While thick forests of Nar Khas having natural caves in Mendhar and hilly terrain of Chamrer in Surankote continue to give a tough time to the Army in flushing out terrorists, believed to be two to three in groups, sources within the security establishment were miffed over the failure of intelligence agencies in Poonch district that led to the killing of nine soldiers within four days.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police have said the terrorists were believed to be hiding in the jungles since August this year.
“Para action is on, but there is nothing conclusive so far. Drones and a helicopter are being used in Nar Khas but there is no breakthrough. The search operations are on in both the places—Nar Khas and Chamrer,” said an Army officer.
A senior police officer said the terrorists believed to have sneaked in August from Balakote before reaching Nar Khas forests and Chamrer.
“We also suspect that there could be two groups and one of them had reached Chamrer in Surankote on way to Shopian via Pir Ki Gali before they gunned down five soldiers on Monday last,” he added.
“Now, such operations take time because the terrain is difficult. There is thick wild growth in the dense forest of Nar Khas where natural caves are there and visibility is also an issue,” he said.
An Army source said on Monday when five soldiers were killed in Chamrer area of Surankote, the terrorists were hiding at vantage positions and had opened fire from two different directions.
On Monday last the Army suffered five casualties that included a JCO followed by four more casualties.
While bodies of the two soldiers were found on Thursday that of JCO and the fourth soldier was found on Saturday.
Within four days from Monday to Thursday, the Army has lost nine soldiers—the worst in recent years.
Sources within the establishment also flagged the issue of sharing parallel intelligence.
They also divulged that the practice of deploying two intelligence men in each border village has also faded away in recent times.
“Nothing substantive was shared by intelligence agencies before five of our men were downed on Monday in Chamrer. Now, if these terrorists are there since August, it clearly shows the failure of intelligence agencies and at the same time local support to them cannot be denied,” they said.
It may be stated here that Nar Khas forest is barely 10 km from the LoC while Chamrer is located in Dera Ki Gali area of Surankote and sans LoC.
Nar Khas forest is spread in six to eight square km of the area and has thick forests having rivulets, rivers and caves with poor visibility while Chamrer is a hilly terrain that leads to Pir Ki Gali and then to Shopian in south Kashmir.
“Security forces, for now, have no exact idea about to which terror groups the hiding terrorists belong but some social sites claimed that People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PFF)—an offshoot of LeT was involved but we can’t vouch for the veracity of such claims,” said a police officer.
Another senior police officer said, “Terrorists were contacted thrice and the contacts were initiated by the security forces but then in a jungle things don’t click the way you want. They seem to have been trained well in guerrilla warfare and seem to have acclimatised to the forests”.
Army chief reaches Jammu
Meanwhile, Army Chief General MM Naravane reached Jammu on a two-day visit to the region wherein GOC, White Knight Corps, will give an update on the security situation and operational preparedness.
“The COAS will visit forward areas and interact with troops and commanders on the ground. He will visit Poonch to take stock of the situation and get a feedback from the commanders on the ground,” said an Army officer.
1. On May 2, 2020, at least five security personnel, including a Colonel, a Major and a sub-inspector were killed during an 18-hour anti-militancy operation in north Kashmir’s Handwara area.
2. On February 14, 2019, at least 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel as well as suicide bomber Adil Ahmad Dar, a local Kashmiri youth, were killed in Pulwama.
3. On February 10, 2018, at pre-dawn, Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists attacked Sunjuwan brigade and killed six soldiers and a civilian besides injuring 20 others that included 14 soldiers.
4. On November 30, 2016, at least seven soldiers, including two Majors, were killed when militants dressed as policemen stormed a military camp in Nagrota, which also has Army’s 16 Corps headquarters.
5. On May 14, 2002, the Kaluchak military station was attacked by three armed terrorists from Pakistan. The trio first attacked a Himachal Road Transport Corporation bus on the Jammu-Pathankot highway and killed seven passengers before storming the station where they killed 23 persons, including 10 children, and five soldiers.