JAMMU: As the counter-insurgency operation in the forest belt of Jammu and Kashmir’s twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri entered the ninth day on Tuesday, public announcements were made in Mendhar asking local residents to stay indoors for their safety, officials said. The people were alerted through the public address system in local mosques in Bhatta Durrian and adjoining areas as the security forces were preparing a final assault against the terrorists believed to be hiding in the forest area of Mendhar in Poonch district, the officials said. They said the people were asked not to venture into the forest area and also keep their livestock at their homes in view of the ongoing operation. Those who have gone outside were asked to return to their homes along with their animals, the officials said. While a junior commissioned officer (JCO) and four other security personnel laid down their lives in a fierce gunfight during the start of the counter-insurgency operation in Surankote forest of Poonch on October 11, four other soldiers, including another JCO, lost their lives in another encounter in Nar Khas forest in Mendhar on Thursday evening after the security forces extended the cordon and search operation. An encounter was on in the adjoining Thanamandi forest in Rajouri district on October 11 when security forces confronted the fleeing militants who, however, managed to escape. The entire forest belt is still under tight security cordon to neutralise the terrorists, officials said, adding that the area is mountainous and the forest is dense, making the operation difficult and dangerous. Eight suspected persons including a mother-son duo were detained for questioning from Bhatta Durrian in connection with providing logistic support to the terrorists. The traffic between Mendhar and Thanamandi along the Jammu-Rajouri highway remained suspended as a precautionary measure for the fifth day in the wake of the ongoing operation. Rajouri and Poonch have witnessed a rise in infiltration attempts since June this year.

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