Srinagar: Two Army officers including a major and five soldiers were killed and half a dozen others wounded in a fierce gun battle with a group of heavily armed militants which stormed an Army camp at Nagrota on the outskirts of Jammu and Kashmir’s winter capital Jammu shortly before dawn on Tuesday.
At least, three militants were also killed by the members of Army’s Para commandos. The area was being “sanitised” as reports last came in and during the mopping-up operation sounds of gun fire and occasional blasts could be heard at a distance. “The bodies of three terrorists have been recovered and operations are in progress to sanitise the complete area,” a defence spokesman said.
The heavily armed militants wearing police uniforms after forcing their entry into the Officers Mess complex by throwing grenades and firing at the sentries occupied two buildings leading to a “hostage like situation” as besides officers and men their families were present there, the spokesman said.
Separately, the Border Security Force (BSF) foiled an infiltration bid from across the International Border (IB) in the State’s Samba sector after killing three militants on Tuesday, officials said.
The Army and police officials in Jammu said that the militants attacked the Army’s 166 Field Regiment at Nagrota in their attempt to enter the camp at about 5.30 am. “The heavily armed terrorists first lobbed grenades and then opened indiscriminate fire with their AK assault rifles in their attempt to enter the camp,” said a defence spokesman.
The sentry returned the fire and was joined by other soldiers in fighting the militants. “Army troops took their positions and retaliated to the fire and gun-fight started,” the officials said. About a dozen soldiers were injured in the initial militant attack and the subsequent fire fight and three of them including Major Kunal Gossain of 166 Medium Regiment succumbed at Nagrota’s Army-base hospital soon, the officials said.
Nagrota, located at 13 kilometres north of Jammu along the Jammu-Srinagar highway is the headquarters of the Army’s 16 Corps, a massive military formation that defends the borders and fights militants and terrorists in the greater Jammu region.
The Army cordoned off the area immediately and all schools were shut down. Traffic was stopped on the Jammu-Udhampur stretch of the 294-km highway. Senior officers from Army’s Northern Command also arrived at Nagrota from their headquarters located just 49-km away at Udhampur, the sources said. ”The old (Jammu-Udhamour) route has been closed for the traffic while vehicles are allowed on the new route only depending on the prevailing situation,” the officials had. Jammu’s Deputy Commissioner said that he ordered the closure of all the schools in the Nagrota tehsil “as a precautionary measure”.
Colonel N.N. Joshi, the spokesman of the Northern Command said. “The heavily armed terrorists disguised in police uniforms and targeted the Army unit located 3 km from the 16 Corps headquarters at Nagrota. They forced their entry into the Officers Mess complex by throwing grenades and firing at the sentries”. He said that in the initial counter action, one officer and three soldiers of the Army laid down their lives. He also said that the militants entered two buildings which were occupied by officers, families and men which “led to a hostage like situation”.
The spokesman said that the situation was, however, very quickly contained and thereafter, in a deliberate operation all were successfully rescued, which included 12 soldiers, two ladies and two children. “However, in this rescue attempt one more officer and two jawans sacrificed their lives. Bodies of three terrorists have been recovered and operations are in progress to sanities the complete area.
Meanwhile, the BSF said that it foiled an infiltration bid in Chamliyal area of Ramgarh Sector along the IB in Samba district on Tuesday morning. ”A group of five to six terrorists fired at the forward BSF posts in Ramgarh sector in a bid to sneak into Jammu and Kashmir but the alert jawans retaliated by opening fire, killing three of them. One jawan Sanjay Kumar was seriously injured in the encounter, said the BSF. The police added that the injured BSF jawan was admitted to Jammu’s Government Medical College and Hospital.
The police and BSF sources said that the militants had holed up in a tube well pump- house but the BSF fired heavily resulting into the death of three of them. Officials said that the remaining militants fled back to the Pakistani territory. According to these reports a search operation was soon started to ensure no more militants are hiding in the area. The police confirmed that the firing was over and the area was being “sanitised”.
Later during the day, BSF DIG B.S. Kasana, Inspector Paramjeet and Constable Vikas and a jawan of J&K Police’s counterinsurgency Special Operations Group (SOG) Sarabjeet Singh were injured in a blast while carrying out mopping-up operation in the area, Samba’s Deputy Commissioner Samba Sheetal Nanda said. The BSF sources said that a improvised explosive device went off when the jawans were removing the corpse of one of the slain militants. Their condition is stated to be critical. A report said that in all six BSF and J&K policemen received grievous injuries in the blast. The BSF alleged that its men were fired upon from across the IB while anti-infiltration operations were being summed up.
Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, condemned the twin terror attacks and said that Jammu and Kashmir has suffered heavily due to the unending cycle of violence. While appealing for an end to it, she expressed sympathies with the families of slain soldiers and prayed for speedy recovery of the injured.
Governor N.N. Vohra spoke to Lt. Gen D. S. Hooda, Northern Army Commander who incidentally hangs his uniform this week, K. Rajendra, DGP J&K police, Lt. Gen A. K. Sharma, GOC XVI Corps and other and other Army, BSF and J&K police officers to convey his grief and sincere sympathy. During his conversation with Lt. Gen. Hooda, the Governor expressed serious concern about repeated terror attacks on security forces’ establishments and “Pakistan’s continuing attempts to exacerbate the situation while India was seeking to restore peace and normalcy”. The Governor urged all the security forces commanders to enhance surveillance on every front and, in the absence of Chief Minister from station, has asked the Chief Secretary to direct the districts and divisional civil and police administration to immediately review the security of all important installations and establishments.
J&K Deputy Chief Minister, Nirmal Singh, termed the terror attack at Nagrorta as a desperate bid to push the State into chaos and confusion. He said terror elements will be dealt with strongly and given a proper and strong response.
In Delhi, former Union Home Secretary and BJP MP, R.K. Singh. said the attack at Nagrota is a "message" sent by Pakistan's newly appointed army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to India. “We need to take note of the fact that this is the (Pakistan) new Army chief sending a message. His policy will be same as followed by the predecessor...We (also) need to send across a message to him," he said adding "India will hit back harder every time it is targeted." he said.