Rajouri, Jan 5: Around one and a half dozen terror related incidents have taken place in the border district of Poonch during the last three years, since August, 2021.
Although the situation on the 115 km long stretch of Line of Control in Poonch district has improved after the ceasefire agreement between armies of India and Pakistan in February 2021, the hinterland security has become a state of concern.
Since August, 2021, the district has witnessed almost one and a half dozen terror related incidents including four deadly attacks on army; multiple encounters and mysterious explosions.
Poonch district, which is broadly divided into three sub divisions including Poonch headquarter, Mandi and Surankote, is having a challenging topography. It has a 115 km long LoC stretch, starting from Bhimber Gali up to Saujiyan. Surankote sub division of the district connects with Shopian district via Mughal Road and has snow clad mountain ranges while Loran and Saujiyan areas of Poonch sub division connect with parts of Baramulla district and have mountain ranges that receive heavy snowfall in winters.
The district remained peaceful for almost one decade up to 2020 but the things in terms of hinterland security changed sharply, spreading a wave of concern among security forces and intelligence agencies.
Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi, GOC-in-C Northern Command recently stated that there were twenty to twenty-five terrorists operating in Rajouri and Poonch and the forces would be able to control the situation in one year or so.
Among the major terror incidents that have taken place also include four deadly terror attacks on the army at Chamrer forests; Nar forests; Bhata Dhurian highway and DKG forests.
Earlier, the period from 2010 to 2020 was considered as peaceful in the district as no major terror incident happened except a deadly encounter that broke out between terrorists and security forces in an under-construction mini secretariat complex located near Poonch district police office and army’s brigade headquarter.
Four terrorists, who had split in two groups, had entered the under construction mini secretariat complex and a nearby house on September 11 in 2016 and gunbattle lasted for three days in which all the terrorists were killed. However, one police cop from the district special branch was killed by terrorists whereas seven security personnel (three police personnel and four army personnel) had received injuries.
However, the situation in Poonch district, especially in hinterland areas, has turned worrisome during the last three years.
As per the details available, around one and half dozen terror related incidents have taken place in the district since August 2021. They included an encounter on Line of Control at Noorkot Poonch in which one terrorist was killed. It was followed by a deadly encounter between forces and terrorists in dense Chamrer forest of Surankote on October 11, 2021 in which five army personnel lost their lives.
This was immediately followed by another deadly encounter between army troops and terrorists in Bhata Dhurian, Nar forests on October 16 in which four army personnel lost their lives in a gunfight.
On November 26, same year, one terrorist was killed by forces while foiling infiltration attempt on LoC in Kanga Gali, Balakote area of Mendhar whereas on December 13, encounter broke out in a dhok near Chata Pani on Mughal Road in which two terrorists were killed while forces said to have arrested a terror facilitator from the site.
The 2022 registered a single incident that was of mysterious blast in the house of DDC member Surankote Sohail Malik on September 15.
However, the year 2023 was full of challenges for forces due to a number of terror related incidents in which nine army soldiers lost their lives in two major attacks followed by multiple explosions as well as encounters in the district.
The data revealed that a total of eleven incidents and encounters took place in the district in 2023 that primarily included two major terror attacks; one at Bhata Dhurian on April 20 and another in DKG forests on December 21.
The Bhata Dhurian attack took place on April 20 when an army vehicle was on way to Sanjiote from Bhimber Gali and was attacked at Bhata Dhurian on Jammu Rajouri Poonch national highway. The vehicle also caught fire after the attack and five army soldiers lost their lives in the attack and one was injured.
The second major attack took place on December 21 when terrorists ambushed two army vehicles on DKG-Bufliyaz road. Four army soldiers lost their lives in the attack while three were injured.
Other terror incidents included three explosions in Surankote sub division.
Besides, an encounter took place in the district on July 17 in Sheindra village between Poonch and Surankote in which forces eliminated four terrorists.
Many encounters took place in the district both on Line of Control and hinterland in the year 2023. They included an infiltration attempt on LoC in Gulpur Poonch on May 30 in which one local man was captured in injured condition and two were arrested. They were categorised as terrorists, who were attempting to smuggle arms, ammunition from LoC.
Similarly, one infiltrating intruder was shot down at LoC in Dabsi Mendnar on May 20 while one terrorist was killed by army on LoC in Chakan da Bagh, Poonch on July 17 whereas one infiltrating terrorist was killed by army on LoC in Degwar terwan, Poonch.
Another disturbing development was the death of three local men from Topi Peer village on December 22 in 2023 amid reports that they were detained by army for questioning after DKG attack. This spread anger among local population.
The official sources claimed that amid the alarming situation in the district, the dense forest cover spread between Mendhar and Surankote sub divisions has become a challenging place for forces as it is mostly uninhabited area with thick foliage and vegetation comprising trees of all sizes, wild bushes, grass and herbs.
The forest cover is between Bhata Dhurian and Nar in Mendhar sub division; Chamrer and Bufliyaz in Surankote subdivision while it is also spread towards Deri Ralyote area of Manjakote and Bhangai; DKG area of Thanamandi in Rajouri district.
All four major attacks on army troops including ambush attacks on army vehicles have taken place in this forest cover only which is now being considered as the most 'sensitive' pocket in terms of terror incidents.