In an audacious attack on the Army on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, militants have killed eight soldiers and left 14 others wounded at Hyderpora, on the Jammu-Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Highway, on Monday.

Highly placed sources told The Hindu that eight soldiers died and eleven others sustained injuries when a group of heavily armed militants opened fire and lobbed grenades at around 4.30 p.m. on a military convoy moving from Panta Chowk to Pattan. Two of the targeted vehicles were extensively damaged. Later, the fleeing militants injured a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Sub Inspector in another attack near Barzulla.

The militants, sources said, attacked the convoy from an alley near Classic Hospital. The attackers are believed to have fled towards Police Station Saddar on a motorcycle first and then on a Santro car. At Barzulla, close to Police Station Saddar, they attacked and injured the CRPF Sub Inspector. Thereafter, they abandoned their two-wheeler and escaped in the car. The motorcycle and the Santro car were later seized by the police from two different locations. Police sources said that the motorcycle had been snatched from two youths, Saquib and Zaid Farooq, in Baghaat area. Both had reported the incident to the police.

A Defence spokesman at headquarters 15 Corps, Naresh Vig, confirmed eight fatal casualties and said that about 10 others had sustained injuries. He said that three of the injured were critical. “The search operation is continuing. The Army has ordered an inquiry,” Mr. Vig said.

Monday’s attack on the Army occurred despite a high-security alert ahead of the two-day visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi from June 25.

On Saturday last, militants had gunned down two J&K Police personnel on Hari Singh High Street. With Monday’s attack, as many as ten Army and police personnel have died here in the last three days.

Local news agencies said that the Hizbul Mujahideen spokesman Baleeguddin called them by telephone to claim that the cadres of his outfit had attacked the Army and the CRPF in Srinagar.