Army camp, police station attacked; tanks & choppers used for first time to repulse rebels

Twelve persons, including a Lieutenant Colonel, died in two militant attacks on police and Army formations in Kathua and Samba districts of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday.

The fidayeen offensive came after a pause of over ten years in Jammu province. The two gunfights happened close to the international border between India and Pakistan.

Deputy Inspector General of Police, Jammu-Kathua range, Shakeel Beg told The Hindu that four men of the J&K police, three Army personnel, including the second-in-command of 16 Cavalry, and two civilians were killed even as the security forces killed all the three militants in the daylong gunfight. Four helicopters and some tanks were for the first time used in a counter-insurgency operation in the strife-ravaged State.

Informed sources revealed that the three unidentified militants in combat military uniform, who were believed to have infiltrated through the meticulously fenced international border in the Raj Bagh area on Tuesday, appeared in an interior neighbourhood of Hiranagar, in Kathua district, in the morning. They commandeered a load-carrier at gunpoint, and on sighting a police station at Hiranagar, they alighted and trooped into the premises, killing the sentry. There they killed three more policemen and injured three others.

The militants also fired upon the driver and left him wounded when he attempted to escape. Thereafter, they hijacked a truck towards the highway after killing its cleaner who reportedly offered resistance. They abandoned the truck on the highway and used another vehicle to reach an Army camp at Samba, on the road to Jammu.

Both the drivers later revealed to the police that there were three militants. Sources said the three heavily armed militants stormed the military formation and took positions close to the officers’ mess. Two soldiers and a Lt Colonel died and two more soldiers sustained injuries. The DIG Jammu said that early reports of six fatal casualties were not true. Some officials initially mistook the injured for the dead, he added.

The spokesperson of a little known militant outfit Al-Shuhada Brigade reportedly told local newspaper offices that its fidayeen — Mohammad Akram, Furqanul Haq and Engineer Vikas — carried out the attack. He claimed that all the three were from Jammu.