The anti-terror operation in Jammu and Kashmir's twin districts of Poonch and Rajouri continued on 15th consecutive day on Monday.
So far, 9 army soldiers including 2 junior commissioned officers (JCOs), 6 terrorists and another taken from the prison to locate the hideout, have been killed.
A soldier and two policemen have also been injured in the intermittent firing exchanges between the security forces and the terrorists hiding in the densely forested area.
The first contact between the combing army soldiers and the terrorists took place in Dhera Ki Gali (DKG) in Poonch district on October 11, 2021.
The operation, initially restricted to DKG in Poonch, was later extended to the forest area in the neighbouring Rajouri district.
There has, so far, been no clarity either on the number of the terrorists hiding or the fact whether these belong to an already existing group or have recently infiltrated from across the line of control (LoC).
Defence sources initially said that it was an already existing group in the hinterland that was moving from the Valley to the Poonch district in the Jammu division.
Reliable sources said during the security review taken by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Srinagar on October 23, intelligence agencies told Shah that those trapped inside the operation area had recently infiltrated into the Jammu division.
Two days back, the local police made announcements through loudspeakers asking locals not to go into the forest area or try to graze their animals there.
Specially trained para commandos have also been deployed to flush out the remaining terrorists in the area.
Two locals have been detained for questioning on the suspicion of having provided food and shelter to the terrorists.
Another report said the group of terrorists was accompanied by a local guide when they were initially spotted.
Security forces took one LeT terrorist named Zia Mustafa, belonging to Pakistan, to the operation area to locate a hideout.
Mustafa was lodged in a Jammu jail from where he was taken by the security forces to the site of the operation.
Police said as the security forces came close to the hideout, terrorists fired at them injuring an army soldier, two policemen and the foreign terrorist, Zia.
"We evacuated the injured security men from the area, but could not extract the injured terrorist who later succumbed", police sources said.
Intermittent firing exchanges are reported from the area during the last 15 days.
Defence sources said the final assault on the hiding terrorists is imminent, but so far, there is no official word on how and when the area would be declared safe for scores of locals living in villages around the operation site.
(With inputs from IANS)