Sunday is usually a day-off for most people and a laid-back way defines the pace of activities. For security forces in far-off Poshana area of Poonch, however, there was no respite as they were involved in an encounter lasting several hours. Two Pakistani terrorists were killed and one Kashmiri from Shopian, named Mubarak Ahmed Thokar, was apprehended later. Thokar had come to Poonch in a car to ferry the Pakistani duo to Shopian but heavy snowfall stalled their plans.
This incident coincided with sixth round of District Development Council (DDC) elections. The killed terrorists were from Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and infiltrated from LoC 10 days ago. They were headed for the Kashmir valley and were using this as a transit route, according to intelligence officials.
For a long time, Shopian in South Kashmir has remained a hotbed of terrorism. The district has consistently reported very low polling percentage in all six rounds of polls so far. On Sunday, it recorded 4.60 per cent voting, in the previous round the polling was 5.50 per cent and in fourth round only 1.93 per cent.
The significance of the encounter lies in the fact that it was in 2004, almost 16 years ago that any encounter has happened in this area. Intelligence inputs were there regarding some suspicious movement and the security forces were alert to them. South of Pir Panjal mountains, Balakot, Mankot, Karmara, Krishna Ghati, Kirni, Kasba and Shahpur were used as infiltration routes by the terrorists earlier.
For a long time now, after Operation Sarp Vinash launched in Hill Kaka tracts of Surankote, movement of terrorists almost halted. Sunday’s encounter indicates that the old traditional infiltration routes are being sought to be revived. Increased incidents of wanton firing by small arms, mortar shelling etc recorded in this area is linked to Pakistani efforts to push in terrorists.
It can be recalled here that three weeks ago, there was an encounter at Ban Toll post in Nagrota also. Four terrorists were killed here around 6 am in an early morning encounter and at least 30 AK-47 rifles were seized later. The terrorists neutralised in the incident had infiltrated from Hiranagar-Samba area on the International Border (IB).
The Poonch incident has happened in an area not very far from the Line of Control (LoC). The security forces know now that both IB and LoC have been activated by the Pakistani handlers of terrorists. The Jammu region was also in the throes of terrorism over a decade ago, with sporadic incidents being reported. Of late, there have been encounters and no incidents of killings of ordinary citizens by the terrorists.
Even in the Ban Toll post encounter, terrorists were trying to travel to the Kashmir region. Repeated sightings of drones hovering around the IB and LoC, some carrying weapons, and dropping them on the Indian side has also been reported by the Border Security Force (BSF). This signifies a change in tactics by the adversary and now methods are being worked out to counter the drones and shoot them down.