- Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times, Srinagar
- Updated: Sep 18, 2016 19:07 IST
- Updated: Sep 18, 2016 19:07 ISTIn one of the worst casualties suffered by the Indian Army in a single attack, heavily armed militants attacked a strategic military base in north Kashmir’s Uri on Sunday morning and killed 17 soldiers, triggering calls for a fierce Indian retaliation on Pakistan that was seen to be behind the strike
- More than 30 soldiers have been injured, at least 10 of them critically, amid fears that the death toll would rise. According to sources, most of the soldiers have gunshot wounds while many have severe burn injuries.Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to punish those behind the “cowardly” and “despicable” attack.No one has so far claimed responsibility, but home minister Rajnath Singh said he was disappointed with “Pakistan’s continued and direct support to terrorism and terrorist groups”.Islamabad rejected the charge, saying that New Delhi always blamed Pakistan for such incidents even before completing a probe.
- India has also blamed Pakistan for the two-month-long unrest in Kashmir that has left 86 people dead.
- “Pakistan is a terrorist state and it should be identified and isolated as such,” Singh said on Twitter, adding that the militants “were highly trained, heavily armed and specially equipped”.
- “I assure the nation that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished,” Modi said in a series of tweets.
- A top army official said the attack pointed towards the involvement of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e Mohammad, which was also blamed by India for the Pathankot airbase attack in January.
- Four “fidayeen” — or commando-style gunmen willing to fight to the death — were also killed after sneaking into the base in Uri near the Line of Control with Pakistan, the worst single attack on the army in 26 years.
- A soldier at the army base which was attacked by militants in the town of Uri, west of Srinagar. (Waseem Andrabi /HT Photo)
The Uri attack came within hours of the Uttarakhand police chief revealing that the Centre had sent out an alert for possible terrorist strike on defence installations in North India.
Sources said security agencies had of increased militant movement across the border in Uri.
The militants are believed to have crossed over a day earlier from a village called Gowhalan–through a stream. At around 5.30 am, the militants breached the fence of the army installation and attacked the soldiers mostly believed to have been sleeping in barracks and tents.
One of the barracks caught fire before the four militants were killed in a gunfight after nearly two hours. Whether the militants were carrying gunpowder or the barrack caught fire during the gunfight is not know. Sources said the militants threw grenades and started firing indiscriminately as they entered the camp and most of the soldiers were killed when their tents caught fire in the grenade attack.
Smoke was seen rising from inside the camp even as reporters were made to stay at a safe distance from the attack site. The rear office is where army battalion’s logistic equipment is kept. Immediately after the attack, Army para commandos from Baramulla were airdropped at the site and the injured air lifted to the base hospital in Srinagar.
The Uri camp which houses the army’s brigade headquarters had large strength of troop around 12,000 to 13,000. The attack took place during a change of command, when one unit replaces another for duty.
“The administrative base had large strength of troops of units turning over after their tour of duty who were stationed in tents/temporary shelters which caught fire, and resulted in heavy casualties. We salute the sacrifice of 17 soldiers who were martyred in the operation,” the army said in a statement.
Army Chief Dalbir Singh reached Srinagar to take stock of the situation, he also visited the attack site in Uri. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is also likely to visit the site.
DGMO Lt Gen Ranbir Singh said that the militants could be from the JeM as some items recovered from them had Pakistan markings. He said 4 AK-47 rifles, four under barrel grenade launchers and ammunition was recovered from the slain militants.
Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said the attack appeared to be aimed at triggering fresh violence and creating a war-like situation in the region.
“Unfortunately, people in Jammu and Kashmir, who are already mired in an agonizing situation shall have to bear the maximum brunt of the fresh attempts being made to step up violence and trigger fresh bloodshed in the state,” she said.