The Army has launched a major combing operation in the Khablan forests of Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district after villagers reported the presence of heavily armed terrorists in the area.
The Thanmandi-Rajouri road has been closed to traffic as a precaution.
Today’s op is part of the ongoing anti-terror operation in the Poonch and Pirpanjal regions of J&K.
Nine soldiers, including two officers, have been killed in action over the past 27 days, in an operation that began in the Surankote forests on October 11 following the killing of five soldiers.
It was subsequently extended to Mendhar as the Army sought to neutralise the fleeing terrorists.
Official sources said the villagers complained about the terrorists yesterday.
These terrorists are believed to be part of the same group involved in the killing of the nine officers between October 11 and 14.
Since then, the Army has been engaged in one its longest ever counter-terror ops, but there has been little success so far against terrorists who seem well-entrenched in the forested area. There has been no contact since firing on October 24 in Bhatti Durrian, which left one terrorist killed.
A major part of the forest belt was cleared to allow the authorities to reopen the highway and villagers to resume normal activities, officials said, according to news agency PTI.
Locals said gunshots and heavy firing were heard last night as the Army moved in towards the terrorists’ hiding spot. However, so far there is no clarity if any terrorists were, in fact, killed.
Army Chief General MM Naravane has visited this area twice in the last month; it is the first time an Army chief has visited the site of an active encounter in J&K.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated Diwali with soldiers from Rajouri district’s Nowshera this week in an effort to boost the morale of soldiers deployed along the Line of Control.
The districts of Poonch and Rajouri have reported no terrorist activity since 2003.
This is the first time in the last 18 years that such terror has made a comeback and is widely seen as posing a major challenge to the security situation.
With input from PTI