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Bodies of killed JCO, soldier recovered as search operation continues in Poonch-Rajouri forest areas

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Jammu: The bodies of the missing JCO and a soldier were retrieved Saturday, taking the number of army men killed in Thursday’s gunfight between security forces and militants to four, officials said today.

On Octor 11, five Army personnel, including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO), were killed when militants attacked a search party in Poonch’s Surankote forest. Thus the total toll of soldiers killed in forests bordering Poonch and Rajouri has reached nine,

The gunfight broke out on Thursday evening after the security forces launched a search operation in Bhata Dhurian village following inputs about the presence of militants. In the gunfight, two soldiers were killed while two others, including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO), were reported missing.

“Both the bodies were retrieved on Saturday evening and have now been brought to Primary Health Center Bhata Dhurian for post-mortem examination,” an official said.

An army spokesman identified the slain soldiers as Subedar Ajay Singh and Naik Harendra Singh. He said the bodies of the duo were recovered in the densely forested area of Nar Khas in Mendhar. The duo, he said, was part of the search operations launched to pursue the hiding militants.

The spokesman said that the communication with the duo was disrupted on Oct 14, 2021.

Meanwhile, a massive search operation in the forest areas of twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri to track down militants entered its sixth day on Saturday, officials said.

They said gunshots were heard as the joint search parties of the Army and the police resumed the operation in Poonch’s Mendhar area. “However, it was not immediately clear whether it was speculative firing by the search parties or fresh contact was established with the militants,” they said.

The area is mountainous and the forest is dense, which makes the operation difficult and dangerous, according to the officials.

A vast forest area of Mendhar has been under tight security cordon since Thursday, when riflemen Vikram Singh Negi and Yogambar Singh, both from Uttarakhand, were killed in an encounter with militants in the Nar Khas forest.

Earlier on October 11, five Army personnel, including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO), were killed when militants attacked a search party in Poonch’s Surankote forest.

There was an exchange of fire between the Army search parties and the fleeing militants in the adjoining Thanamandi forest in Rajouri the same day.

The officials said that the entire forest area from Mendhar to Thanamandi “remains under a strict cordon and a massive search operation is on to neutralise the terrorists who are moving from one place to another in an attempt to escape the dragnet.”

The traffic between Mendhar and Thanamandi along the Jammu-Rajouri highway remained suspended for the second day in view of the ongoing operation, they said.

On Tuesday, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Rajouri-Poonch range, Vivek Gupta had said that the “terrorists involved in the attack on security forces in Poonch had been present in the area for the last two to three months.”

Rajouri and Poonch in the Jammu region have witnessed a rise in infiltration attempts since June this year, resulting in the killing of nine militants in separate encounters.

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