Three suspected Pakistani militants stormed an army base in the Jammu region of Indian-administered Kashmir on Tuesday, killing seven Indian security personnel, the army said.
All three “suicide attackers” who entered the Nagrota base camp in the early morning were killed following a fierce gunfight that lasted more than 14 hours, Indian Army spokesman Lt. Col. Manish Mehta said in a statement issued late Tuesday.
The Nagrota Army Base, which houses the headquarters of the 16 Corps unit, is about 12 miles from the Pakistani border.
The attackers, whose identities have not been determined, forced their way into the fortified army installation after firing weapons and lobbing grenades, the army said.
“One [army] officer and three soldiers were killed in the initial hours of [the] firefight,” Mehta said, adding that the assailants subsequently made their way into the base’s residential wing and took 16 people, including women and children, hostage.
“At least a dozen soldiers, two women and two children were rescued from [the] family quarters by the army while the terrorists continued firing intermittently. In that rescue operation, another officer and two soldiers lost their lives,” Mehta said.
The bodies of the three slain attackers have been recovered and a combing operation was suspended until daybreak, a top police official told BenarNews.
“The combing operation will resume tomorrow to clear the area of any stray explosives,” Kashmir Director General of Police S.P. Vaid said.
“At this moment it is difficult to say anything about the identity of the attackers, but it appears they were Pakistani nationals,” he said.
The attack came just over two months after suspected Pakistani militants struck an army base in the Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir, killing 19 Indian soldiers. That strike, which was blamed on Pakistan-based militant outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), escalated tensions between India and Pakistan, both of which lay claim to the Himalayan region of Kashmir in its entirety.
Days after the Uri attack, the Indian Army claimed to have conducted surgical strikes in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir to wipe out at least five “terror launch pads” operating across the Line of Control (LoC), a de facto border that divides the region between India and Pakistan.
Since the surgical strikes, soldiers from both sides have engaged in cross-border firing.
According to sources in the Indian Army, Pakistani troops allegedly committed more than 150 ceasefire violations along the LoC in the past two months.
“Our troops have offered a befitting reply to most of these ceasefire violations,” an Indian Army official said on condition of anonymity, while admitting that civilians had been killed on both sides of the border during these confrontations.
Last week, three Indian soldiers were killed, including one whose body was mutilated, in the border district of Kupwara. India alleges that Pakistani troops were responsible.
A day later, the Indian Army claimed to have bombarded Pakistani positions in what was touted as the heaviest exchange of fire on the LoC since a ceasefire came into effect in 2003. Pakistani authorities said 11 civilians and three of its soldiers died.
Infiltration bid foiled
Meanwhile, as Indian Army personnel were engaged in an encounter with the attackers at the Nagrota base, the country’s Border Security Force (BSF) shot dead three suspected Pakistani infiltrators while they were trying to cross over to the Indian side in Samba district about 42 km (26 miles) away, police said.
“The three men were trying to sneak into the Indian territory when they were spotted by the BSF and gunned down after heavy exchange of fire,” Joginder Singh, Samba’s superintendent of police, told BenarNews.
He did not say if the two incidents were related.
“We recovered a war-like store, including Pakistani-marked rifles and grenades from the three men killed in Samba,” he said.