Srinagar: An Army officer and two soldiers were killed in a pre-dawn militant ‘fidayeen’ attack at an artillery base of the Army in Panzgam area of Jammu and Kashmir’s frontier Kupwara district on Thursday.
Two militants also died in the troops’ retaliatory fire, the Army and police officials said in Srinagar.
Soon after the attack, protests by locals were held in nearby villages of Panzgam and Kralapora, reports received here said.
The officials said that a slogan chanting mob hurled stones at the Army and other security personnel just outside the Panzgam village, about a few kilometres from the Army base.
The troops opened fire on the mob which, the Army said, had tried to disturb movement of its men.
One person identified as Muhammad Yusuf Bhatt, 45, a resident of Panzgam, was killed and ten others were wounded, the reports said.
Bhatt, the reports added, was hit by a bullet in the neck and died on way to hospital.
The locals said that a group of Panzgman residents relocated near the Army base demanded that the corpses of the slain militants be handed over to them so that they could be given ‘decent Islamic funeral’.
SSP Kupwara Shamsher Hussain while confirming it said that the troops opened fire on a "violent mob".
Defence spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia said that a heavily armed group of militants tried to storm the artillery headquarters of the 155 Field Regiment at Panzgam, about 80-km northwest of Srinagar, but the alert jawans foiled their attempt.
In the ensuing fire fight, three soldiers including a Captain and a Non- Commissioned Officer laid down their lives.
"Two terrorists were also killed. The operation is still underway," the spokesperson said.
The police and Army sources said that five jawans were injured who have been airlifted to Srinagar and admitted to Army's 92-Base Hospital at Badami Bagh Cantonment.
The sources said that the militants opened fire from their AK 47 assault rifles and also lobbed a few grenades at the camp.
The attack at the Army base, took place at 4.30 am at Panzgam which is located close to the Line of Control (LoC), according to sources.
"It is not yet clear if the terrorists were already present in the area or had just sneaked in from across the LoC to target the Army base," an Army officer said.
The defence spokesman confirmed that it was a ‘fidayeen’ attack which has been "repulsed".
Police sources said that the militants could be members of Jaish-e-Muhammad or Lashkar-e-Taiba.
This is the first major attack at an Army base in the frontier region of Kashmir Valley after 19 soldiers were killed in a similar attack carried out by militants at the 12 Infantry Brigade headquarters at Uri in neighbouring Baramulla district on September 18, 2016.
The relations between India and Pakistan have been deeply strained since the attack, which marked the highest casualty suffered by the Army in years.
Days after the Uri terror attack, the Army carried out surgical strikes in PoKand and took out several militant launch pads.
Islamabad, however, denied any Indian strike on its territory.
The Uri attack was followed by another attack at an Army camp at Nagrota along the Srinagar-Jammu highway in which seven soldiers including two majors were killed.
The attack at Panzgam base comes a day after the Army had said that around 150 militants are waiting just across the LoC in PoK to sneak into Jammu and Kashmir.
Lt Gen J S Sandhu, the GoC-in-Chief of Srinagar-based 15 (Chinar) Corps, had on the sidelines of a function held in Baramulla, said that there would be more militants at the launching pads in PoK in the areas facing Poonch and Rajouri in Jammu region of the State....