Suicide bombers armed with guns and grenades stormed a military artillery base near Jammu on Tuesday, triggering a fierce pre-dawn gunfight that left three soldiers and four attackers dead, officials said. Three more militants died in another shootout with security forces near the International Border with Pakistan here.
The attacks at the army base and a BSF camp – both on the outskirts of Jammu city – were the latest in a series of escalating militant violence in Jammu and Kashmir after the September 29 surgical strikes at terror launch pads by the Indian Army in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
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Police sources told IANS here that a group of militants in police uniform barged into the military camp at Nagrota, near the headquarters of the Indian Army’s 16 Corps, a military formation that acts as a nerve centre against militancy and to defend the border with Pakistan.
A police officer said the militants carrying automatic weapons and explosives entered the field regiment camp around 5.30 a.m. They started firing indiscriminately at the Officers’ Mess inside the camp in Nagrota, some 15 km from here.
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“Three soldiers and four militants were killed and three army men were injured,” the police officer said.
The dead soldiers included Major Kunal Gossain of 166 Medium Regiment Artillery, the officer said. The bodies of the slain gunmen were recovered even as the operation was still on.
The police officer said intermittent gunshots were heard at the shootout site till late in the evening.
However, military spokesperson Lt. Col Manish Mehta refused to divulge details of the operation. He said that security forces were mopping up the area.
The Jammu-Srinagar highway, which runs through Nagrota, was closed for traffic near the town.
As soldiers battled the militants in Nagrota, another gunfight raged in Samba, some 40 km south of here.
A police officer said security forces engaged a group of infiltrators from Pakistan in a shootout near the International Border.
Three militants were killed in the heavy exchange of fire, the officer said.
An IED exploded when forces tried to remove the body of one of the dead militants, critically injuring at least six border policemen, including an officer of the Deputy Inspector General rank, B.S. Kasana.
The six wounded troopers, including Special Operation Group Inspector Sarabjit Singh, were taken to a hospital here, the officer said, adding their condition was serious.
Earlier, police sources had said that the injuries were caused by an explosion when an ammunition dump caught fire in the shootout.
The violence on Tuesday followed days of calm on the border and the Line of Control (LoC) between Indian and Pakistani forces.
The two sides have been exchanging heavy mortar and artillery fire for months after the September 18 killing of 19 Indian soldiers in an attack on a military base in the border town of Uri in Kashmir.
Following the Uri attack, the Indian Army destroyed at least seven terror launch pads and killed an unknown number of terrorists and their sympathisers across the LoC in Pakistani Kashmir.
Since then, militants have attacked security forces in at least a dozen strikes in Jammu and Kashmir.