The army battled difficult odds on Friday to retrieve the bodies of two fallen soldiers in the dense forests of Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir where they were killed in action last evening, following what is turning out to be one of the deadliest encounters in the union territory in recent times.
Sources said it was a risky mission as the terrorists have gone into hiding deep inside the forest and have been firing at the security forces. After suspending the operation for the night, the bodies of Riflemen Yogambar Singh and Vikram Singh Negi were recovered this afternoon, a police officer said.
With the loss of the two soldiers, the army suffered seven casualties this week in the ongoing operation - five soldiers were killed in action when the encounter started on Monday. Security forces have stepped up operations in Kashmir after several civilian killings last week.
The authorities have closed the Poonch-Jammu Highway as a safety measure.
The heavily armed terrorists seem to be well entrenched in the forests and the operation to neutralise them is proving to be tough, sources said.
The terrorists may have set up their hideouts two-three months ago and seem to be familiar with the terrain and the forest, sources said.
On Monday, the army had engaged terrorists in a fierce encounter in a forest area at Dera Ki Gali. Yesterday, another encounter started at Mendhar forest, several kilometres away from Dera Ki Gali.
Jammu and Kashmir has been on the edge since the killing of three Hindus and a Sikh by terrorists last week which triggered a crackdown by authorities.
There has also been an uptick in infiltration attempts by terrorists from Pakistan, which in February agreed to observe a ceasefire with India along the de-facto border in Kashmir, Indian Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said on Saturday.