The Samba militant attack of September 26 would have accomplished its aim of derailing India-Pakistan talks held three days later but for the pluck and good fortune of the Army camp targeted.

After killing five policemen and two civilians, the three militants had abandoned their get-away vehicle two km from the camp. They gained surprisingly easy access into the mess of the 16th Cavalry in J&K’s Samba district after shooting the lone guard at the rear entrance and the mess housekeeper.

But there were no casualties when they entered the dining hall and lounge after lobbing a grenade in each of the rooms and spraying automatic fire. For, in a change of routine, officers had marched off straight from the PT grounds for a gun cleaning exercise, said sources.

The 16th Cavalry reacted fast after this unexpected assault that killed the second in command Lt. Col. Bikramjit Singh, who had returned home like his Commanding Officer Col. Avin Uthaiah, after the PT drill. Col. Singh was killed by a burst of automatic fire as he made for the guard house for weapons while a soldier following him also took a burst in his back.

By then the officers and men had surrounded the guard block but were in a dilemma about taking on the militants because of the presence of an officer’s wife in a nearby room. There was raw courage on display as the militants tried to break the cordon while the soldiers kept them hemmed in while carrying out a separate evacuation for the woman.

As colleagues from the adjacent 2 Sikh battalion joined them and made the cordons tighter with the addition of five tanks, the militants had been deflected from their main purpose of causing large-scale mayhem on the lines of Kaluchak in 2002.