A war of words between archrivals Pakistan and India escalated Tuesday as security forces in Indian Kashmir killed two suspected militants in ending consecutive marathon attacks on defense installations that left 13 people dead since Saturday.
Indian officials have blamed the two attacks in Jammu and Srinagar cities, the largest urban areas in Jammu and Kashmir state, on Pakistan-based militant groups. The back-to-back attacks lasted 37 hours and 32 hours, respectively.
Islamabad warned India on Tuesday that it would pay back “in its own coin, in case of any misadventure,” echoing a word used a day earlier by Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitaraman. She had threatened stern action against Pakistan following the attacks.
“Any Indian aggression or misadventure irrespective of its scale, mode, or location would be responded to with full force,” Pakistani Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir said.
“Pakistan’s armed forces are fully prepared to defend our country’s territorial integrity,” he added.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry criticized India for “apportioning blame to Pakistan, without a shred of evidence.”
“More deplorable is the threatening tone of the Indian comments that achieves nothing, but further vitiates the already tense environment marked by unprecedented ceasefire violations by India…,” Mohammed Faisal, spokesman for the ministry in Islamabad, said in a statement Tuesday. He was referring to boundaries in Kashmir between the two countries, including the de facto border known as the Line of Control (LoC).
On Monday, after she visited people who were hospitalized after the attack in Jammu, Sitaraman accused Pakistan of “expanding the arc of terror.”
“We will be providing evidence to prove that the handlers are back in Pakistan and they are the mastermind, influencing all this ... Pakistan will pay for this misadventure,” the defense minister warned.
The two nuclear-armed neighbors claim the Kashmir region in its entirety and have fought two full-blown wars over the Himalayan territory since the Indian sub-continent was partitioned in 1947.
A separatist insurgency on the Indian side has claimed over 70,000 lives since the late 1980s.
‘They belonged to LeT’
On Tuesday, Indian security personnel shot dead the two suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives who had allegedly attacked the headquarters in Srinagar of the Central Reserve Police Force and killed a CRPF member a day earlier.
The attack came after Indian forces gunned down three suspected Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) militants who had launched a raid against an army base in Jammu city. The first attack, which began early Saturday and ended late Sunday night, claimed 10 lives. Six soldiers, the three militants, and a civilian comprised the death toll in Jammu.
“We have recovered the bodies of the two attackers. Two weapons and some ammunition have also been recovered from their possession,” CRPF Inspector General RavideepSahi told BenarNews, referring to the assault in Srinagar.
“Incriminating material recovered from the slain militants is indicative that they belonged to LeT. But we are still trying to ascertain their identities,” he said, adding that the nationalities of the attackers had not been confirmed.
The two attackers tried to barge into the CRPF headquarters, but personnel guarding the gates of the heavily fortified compound foiled the attempt. They fought back after families of security personnel were safely evacuated from the vicinity, Sahi added.
“The operation lasted so long because the militants involved in the attack were hiding in a multi-story concrete structure adjacent to security installation,” Inspector General of Police Kashmir, S.P.Pani told BenarNews.
“We operated with caution so as to avoid collateral damage and civilian causalities,” he said.
The CRPF headquarters is a stone’s throw from a Srinagar hospital where LeT mounted a daring daylight assault last week in freeing Pakistani national Naveed Jat, alleged to be a top commander of the outfit who had been in Indian custody since 2014. Two Indian police officials were killed in the attack, which took place as Jat was being escorted to the hospital for a routine medical check-up.
Two suspected LeT operatives and two over-ground workers for the group have been arrested for involvement in the attack, security officials who requested anonymity told BenarNews, adding that Jat and another LeT militant were still on the run.