JAMMU — Shooting between soldiers and militants holed up inside an army camp in Indian-controlled Kashmir has left at least five soldiers and one civilian dead, officials said Feb. 11, the second day of the battle.
The fighting, which began at dawn Feb. 10 when the militants stormed the Sunjuwan army base on the outskirts of the city of Jammu, continued into Feb. 11 afternoon, said the region’s top police official, S.P. Vaid. At least 11 people were injured.
Security forces were sweeping through the camp slowly, since soldiers and their families live there, Vaid said. It was unclear how many militants were involved in the attack.
The Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided between India and archrival and neighbor Pakistan. Both claim the region in its entirety.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep among Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population.
Several militant groups have been fighting for Kashmir’s independence from India or its merger with Pakistan since 1989. Around 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the militants, a charge Islamabad denies.
IANS adds that Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Feb. 12 said militants who killed five soldiers and a civilian at an Army camp in Jammu were Pakistanis and warned that Islamabad will pay for the terror attack.
"Pakistan will have to pay for this misadventure," Sitharaman told reporters here. The deaths of "our soldiers won't go in vain."
The minister was in Jammu to take stock of the situation at the Sunjuwan Army camp which was stormed stormed Feb. 10 morning by three heavily armed militants who entered the residential quarters of junior commissioned officers, spraying bullets and hurling bombs.
The operation was called off Feb. 12 morning after the three attackers were killed. A fourth attacker, she said, may have been a guide and didn't enter the military base.
"Since the terrorist were dressed in battle fatigues and had similar appearance to their possible target victims, the operation had to be done to eliminate the possibility of any mistaken identity of collateral damage."
She said the operations entailed a search of 26 blocks and safe evacuation of families from 189 residential flats.
Sitharaman said the three militants were all Pakistanis and were handled by their Jaish-e-Muhammad leaders across the border.
"The terrorists belonged to JeM, sponsored by Masood Azhar residing in Pakistan and deriving support from therein," she said, adding that the possibility of local support was being investigated.
"The cantonment is located on the outskirts of Jammu, approximately 30 km from the International Boundary, in a semi-urban environment with densely populated civilian localities adjacent to the cantonment perimeter wall. The demography of the cantonment and the adjoining area indicates the possibility of local support to the terrorists."
She said the JeM module that conducted the attack may have infiltrated well before the attack.
"Our intelligence inputs indicate that these terrorists were being controlled by handlers from across the border. The evidence has been scrutinized by National Investigation Agency who shall soon furnish a detailed report."
The minister said that evidences related to JeM's involvement in the terror attack will be shared with Pakistan.
"Giving evidence to Pakistan is a continuous process. It will have to be proved over and over again that they are responsible."
She said giving the evidence to Pakistan will not prevent the Indian Army from responding "appropriately and at a time we deem fit."
The minister said infiltration across the Line of Control has ebbed to a great extent due to "anti-infiltration obstacle system and a dynamic multi-layered counter-infiltration grid" and that militant activities in remote areas were also being curbed.
Despite this, she said, "Pakistan is expanding the arc of terror and resorting to ceasefire violations to aid infiltration.
"Although the terrain configuration and snow conditions make it difficult to complete or stop the infiltration, the government is taking a host of measures in procuring modern electronic surveillance systems to implement Philip Campose committee report, which was instituted to review the security of all military installations for which a sum of Rs. 1,487 crore has been allocated."
She said other measures to stop militant infiltration and enhance surveillance along the border included installing additional censors, unmanned aerial vehicles and long-range surveillance devices "to cover the entire frontage of the LoC."
Earlier, the minister undertook an aerial survey of the Army station and visited the Army Hospital in Jammu city where those injured in the terror attack were being treated.
She also visited Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.