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Search operation to track militants underway in Bandipore’s forests in Kashmir

There was a brief exchange of fire between militants and security forces in the forests of north Kashmir’s Bandipore on Monday even as a massive search operation continued to look for the militants who had attacked an army patrol three days ago.

The area has been cordoned off from all sides and all routes have been sealed for the past three days. “It’s second time when we heard exchange of firing in the forest area,” said a villager on phone who lives close to the area where the search operation is underway.

Locals said a search operation by the soldiers of Rashtriya Rifles and the Special Operation Group of Jammu and Kashmir police is going on in the forests of Panaar and Raynaar, barely four five kilometres away from the main town of Bandipore.

Officials said that security forces had exchanged fire twice in last three days with militants who were hiding in the forests. So far there have been no reports about causalities on either side.

Bandipore’s superintendent of police (SP) Sheikh Zulfkar confirmed that searches in the forests are going on. “We are trying to trace the militants.’’

Other people familiar with the developments said the army patrol had a brief exchange of fire with the militants at Panaar forests which are also linked to the Gurez Valley. The forces had received information about a militant group in the area. An official said that they had tip off that a militant group had sneaked into Bandipore through Baktoor after crossing the Line of Control (LoC). The army is tight-lipped about the infiltration attempt but has confirmed the combing and search operations in the forests.

The search operation comes on the ending days of Ramzan. The Centre had asked forces to stop security operations in Jammu and Kashmir during the month of Ramzan.

Militants have again started using routes of Gurez to sneak into Valley in the last two years. In early 1990s the militants used to cross LoC through the dense forests of Gurez. However, after the high concentration of army in the Gurez area, militants did not use this particular route for infiltration for many years.

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