The authorities in Jammu and Kashmir reopened the Jammu-Rajouri, Rajouri-Poonch national highway for traffic after its closure for over 17 days due to ongoing counter-insurgency operation in Bhatta Durian, the densely forested belt in the Poonch area.
Official sources said the operation is coming to an end after over 21 days. “The operation is almost over but officially not yet declared over,” a senior official said pleading anonymity.
The army has not yet issued any statement about the operation or its conclusion.
Official sources say the authorities allowed traffic on the main highway between Bhimber Gali in Mendhar and Jaran Wali Gali in Surankote in Poonch district, giving relief to thousands of people.
The road was closed on October 15, a day after a fierce encounter in Bhatta Durrian in which four Army soldiers including JCO were killed. The operation in the Surankote area started on October 11 after an encounter between militants and the army in which five Army personnel were killed. The operation was extended to the Mendhar area subsequently.
The last contact with the militants was established on October 24 when the police said two policemen and an army soldier were wounded in an exchange of firing between militants and security forces in Bhatadurian near Mendhar forests in Poonch. The police had said they were taking a detainee Zia Mustafa, a Pakistani militant of LeT, who was in jail for the past 14 years, to Bhatadurian for identification of militant hideout when the exchange of fire started. According to the police, Zia Mustafa also sustained injuries and he could not be extracted from the site due to heavy fire.
Official sources say a major part of the forest has been cleared making authorities confident to reopen the highway and the villagers to resume normal activities. The police have so far detained around 20 persons on allegations of providing logistics and food to the militants.
Meanwhile, the Army has launched a cordon and search operation in the Gulmarg forest area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district. According to the sources, the search operation spot falls in the area adjacent to Boniyar in the Uri sector of the LoC.