The deaths of our soldiers will never go in vain. The standard procedure for any BJP minister post an attack on the Indian army. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was no exception after her visit to Jammu where terrorists ran amuck inside an army camp. Even as the defence minister was holding out threats in Jammu, terrorists attacked a CRPF camp in the heart of Srinagar, killing a jawan.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday said militants who killed five soldiers and a civilian at an Army camp in Jammu were Pakistanis and warned that Islamabad will pay a price 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 three heavily armed militants stormed on Saturday morning and entered the residential quarters of junior commissioned officers, spraying bullets and hurling bombs.
The operation was called off on Monday morning after the three attackers were killed. A fourth one, 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 (in a way) 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 a 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 Jaish module that conducted the attack may have infiltrated sometime back.
“Our intelligence inputs indicate that these terrorists were being controlled by handlers from across the border. The evidence has been scrutinised by National Investigation Agency who shall soon furnish a detailed report.”
The Minister asserted that evidences related to Jaish’s involvement in the terror attack would 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 evidence to Pakistan would not prevent the Indian Army from responding “appropriately and at a time we deem fit”.
The Minister said infiltration from across the Line of Control had ebbed to a great extent due to “anti-infiltration obstacle system and a dynamic multi-layered counter-infiltration grid” and activities of militants in hinterland 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 infiltration of militants and enhance alertness along the border included installing additional censors, UAVs 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 called on Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
Meanwhile, fierce fighting continued between militants and security forces in the heart of Srinagar on Monday after a foiled attack on a CRPF camp left a trooper dead and a policeman critically injured. The LeT claimed responsibility for the attack.
As darkness enveloped the Karan Nagar area, loud explosions and the rattle of automatic gunfire could be intermittently heard, officials and residents said.
The site is barely 300 metres from the SMHS Hospital from where Pakistani LeT militant Naveed Jat alias Abu Hunzullah escaped on February 6 after two policemen were killed.
Police said residents in the vicinity had been evacuated to safety. Internet services were suspended in the area.
A caller identifying himself as Mehmood Shah of the Lashkar-e-Taiba telephoned a local news agency owning responsibility for the attack on the headquarters of the 23 battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force.
Jammu and Kashmir police chief S.P. Vaid congratulated the “alert CRPF sentry” for averting what could have been a suicide attack on the CRPF camp. “Fortunately two terrorists are in cordon and exchange of fire going on.”
Trouble began around 4.30 a.m. when two militants were spotted by a sentry at the observation post. As he opened fire, the militants fled.
Searches in the area revealed that the militants, carrying backpacks and AK-47 rifles, had taken shelter in a building near the CRPF camp which was then surrounded.
When the holed up militants were challenged, they fired at the security forces, triggering a gunfight that left a trooper dead and a member of the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Jammu and Kashmir Police critically injured.
The attempted attack on the CRPF camp comes two days after militants stormed an Army camp at Sunjuwan in Jammu, killing five soldiers and a civilian. At least three terrorists were also slain.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday called for India-Pakistan talks, quickly adding that she will be dubbed “anti-national” by TV channels for making the appeal.
“Dialogue with Pakistan is necessary if we are to end bloodshed (in the state),” Mehbooba Mufti tweeted.
“I know I will be labelled anti-national by news anchors tonight but that doesn’t matter. The people of Jammu and Kashmir are suffering. We have to talk because war is not an option.”
The Chief Minister’s appeal comes amid a spurt in militant violence in the state as well as unending border clashes between Indian and Pakistani militaries. (IANS)