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Pak militant taken to Mendhar from Kot Bhalwal jail killed in encounter

Security personnel stand guard during an encounter with militants at Bhatta Durrian forests of Mendhar in Poonch district on Sunday. —Excelsior/Rahi Kapoor

3 police, Army personnel injured

Excelsior Correspondent

JAMMU, Oct 24: A Pakistani militant of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) outfit, who was yesterday shifted from high-security Kot Bhalwal jail to Mendhar in Poonch district for interrogation and identification of route taken by the infiltrators, was today killed in exchange of firing between militants and security forces in which three security personnel were injured
Zia Mustafa, a LeT militant and resident of Rawalakote in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), was lodged in Kot Bhalwal jail for past 14 years for his involvement in terror incidents in Kashmir.
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Heavy firing and explosions were reported from Bhatta Durrian forest of Mendhar which along with nearby forest areas adjoining Surankote (Poonch) and Thannamandi in Rajouri district is witnessing a massive search operation, the officials said.
The operation, which saw nine Army personnel getting martyred in separate ambushes in Surankote and Mendhar on October 11 and 14, entered the 14th day on Sunday.
A police spokesperson said two policemen and an Army jawan along with a prisoner Zia Mustafa, a Pakistani militant affiliated with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) were injured in firing by the militants in Bhatta Durrian forest of Mendhar this morning.
“Detenue Mustafa was taken to Bhatta Durrian for identification of terrorist hideout during the ongoing operation in which three Army jawans and a JCO were martyred (on October 14).
“‘During the search when the team approached the hideout, militants again opened fire on the joint team of police and Army personnel in which two policemen and an Army jawan sustained injuries,” the spokesperson said.
The police said Mustafa also sustained injuries and he could not be taken out from the site due to heavy fire.
“During the subsequent operation additional reinforcements were sent and the body of Mustafa has been retrieved from the encounter site,” the spokesperson said, adding the operation (to neutralise the hiding militants) is in progress and legal process has been initiated in connection with the killing of the Pakistani ultra.
Three jawans injured in today’s encounter have been identified as Daleep Kumar, head constable and Mohammad Shafeeq, Selection Grade Constable, both from Police and Army soldier Anand Talwar.
Officials said Mustafa, a resident of Rawalakot in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, was lodged in Kot Bhalwal jail for the last 14 years and was shifted to Mendhar on police remand after investigation revealed his link with the hiding militants.
Mustafa had sneaked into this side from the same route which was used by the infiltrators hiding in Bhatta Durrian forests before he was arrested from south Kashmir, the officials said.
Mustafa was reportedly in touch with fresh group of infiltrators guiding them about the route on mobile telephone from inside the Kot Bhalwal jail.
The operation in the forest areas in the twin border districts commenced on October 11 when militants ambushed a search party killing five soldiers including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) in Surankote forest of Poonch before another gunfight in nearby Thanna Mandi on the same day.
On October 14, the militants struck again in which four more soldiers including a JCO were martyred in Nar Khas forest in Mendhar as the security forces extended the cordon and search operation to neutralise the fleeing militants.
Drones and helicopters were pressed into service to assist the marching troops, which included para-commandos, in the jungle at a distance of four km from the Line of Control (LoC), the officials said.
Ten persons, including two women, were detained for questioning after it came to light that they allegedly provided logistic support including food and shelter to the terrorists, the officials said.
Traffic between Mendhar and Thannamandi along the Jammu-Rajouri highway remained suspended as a precautionary measure for the ninth day on Sunday in the wake of ongoing operation.
Rajouri and Poonch in 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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