5 soldiers, civilian, 3 fidayeens killed; 10 injured; Ops continue

Troops engaged in operation as a tank was also moved-in inside Sunjuwan Military Station in Jammu to flush out militants on Sunday. More pics on page 9. —Excelsior/Rakesh
Troops engaged in operation as a tank was also moved-in inside Sunjuwan Military Station in Jammu to flush out militants on Sunday. More pics on page 9. —Excelsior/Rakesh

NIA team arrives to takeover case

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Feb 11: A total of nine persons including five Army personnel and a civilian were martyred while three fidayeens were eliminated by the troops as operation was still not over inside Sunjuwan Military Station till midnight tonight while the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has decided to hand over investigations of the case to National Investigating Agency (NIA) for in-depth probe as reports surfaced that the militants might have travelled quite a good number of distance to reach Jammu and had conducted recce of the security installations before carrying out the attack in wee hours of yesterday morning.

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Of five Army fatal casualties, four soldiers including a Junior Commissioner Officer (JCO) belonged to Kashmir while another JCO hailed from Hiranagar tehsil of Kathua district in Jammu region. A dead civilian, who happened to be father of one of the soldiers, was also a resident of Kashmir.
Official sources told the Excelsior that since Ist Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLi) had been deployed inside Sunjuwan Military Station, majority of casualties (both dead and injured) hailed from the State. All Army and civilian casualties took place during initial round of firing by the militants, yesterday morning. Two soldiers including a JCO attained martyrdom yesterday, four others, three of them jawans and a civilian, succumbed to their injuries in the hospital overnight.
While two fidayeens were eliminated yesterday, the third one was killed in wee hours of this morning and since then no gun shots have been heard from any area of Sunjuwan Military Station. However, the Army hasn’t declared the operation as formally over and Para Commandos rema-ined deployed inside the Station. Late tonight, Army fired mortar shells towards family quarters and surrounding isolated areas to ensure that militants, if any, are neutralized. Operation will be declared as complete only after entire area is sanitized and no further movement of militant(s) is observed.
“Sanitization and clearance operations were now in progress. Entire complex was being sanitized to ensure that the militants hadn’t laid any booby trap inside the complex to target Army soldiers and their family members. The movement of the families of jawans and others inside the Military Station would be allowed only when the area is completely sanitized by the Bomb Disposal Squad,” sources said.
Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat and Western Command chief Lt Gen Surinder Singh reached here to supervise the operation. Sources said they flew over Sunjuwan Military Station and were briefed in details about the “operational strategy” of the Army by the top Commanders.
Gen Rawat also reviewed security situation with top brass of the Army before flying back to New Delhi.
All schools within 500 meters radius of terror attack site will remain closed tomorrow.
In the meantime, the MHA has decided to hand over investigations of the terror attack to NIA.
A five-member NIA team reached here this morning from New Delhi to start investigations once the operation is formally declared as over by the Army, sources said, adding that handing over of the case to NIA was necessitated to probe certain lapses, which led to the fidayeen strike.
“The case is being handed over to the NIA as the militants had managed to reach Sunjuwan Military Station either from the Kashmir valley or from the International Border or Line of Control (LoC). They might have been helped by the Over Ground Workers (OGWs) in movement and other activities,” sources said.
They admitted that free movement of the militants right up to Sunjuwan Military Station has raised “serious question mark” over security apparatus in Jammu. The militants had entered the Army Station from rear side, reportedly by cutting fence and trekking through the `Tutan Wali Khud’. All Main Gates of the Army Station were well fortified and it was in view of this that the militants chose rear side of the Station to intrude inside after cutting the fence and targeted family quarters of the Army, where unarmed soldiers and their family members were putting up.
The NIA had also investigated Samroli and Pathankot terror attacks among others.
Defence PRO Lt Col Devender Anand told the reporters that during sanitizing of residential quarters by the Indian Army Commandos, bodies of one more JCO, two jawans and an elderly man, who happened to be father of a soldier, were recovered this morning, taking death toll in the fidayeen attack to six as a JCO and a soldier were martyred yesterday.
“All of them had been killed by the terrorists in initial stage yesterday. So far six fatal casualties have occurred, which included two JCOs, three jawans and one civilian dependent, all of whom were residents of Jammu and Kashmir. In addition, 10 people have been injured. Of them, six are women and children including the pregnant lady. A 14-year old boy with gunshot wound in the head, however, remained critical,” Lt Col Anand said, adding the sanitization and search operations are continuing.
The Defence PRO said in the ongoing operations, three terrorists have so far been killed.
“The third terrorist, like the earlier two, was also found wearing Army combat dress and was heavily armed like the other two slain militants. AK-56 rifles, Under Barrel Grenade Launcher, ammunition and grenades have been recovered from the slain militants,” he added.
The spokesperson also said, “There has been no firing since last night.”
Six martyrs have been identified as Subedar Madan Lal Choudhary, a resident of Hiranagar in Kathua district, Subedar Mohammad Ashraf Mir,  R/o Maidanpora, Kupwara, Havaldar Habib Ullah Qurashi R/o Batpora, Kupwara, Lance Naik Manzoor Ahmad Deva R/o Qazigund, Anantnag, Lance Naik Mohammad Iqbal R/o Tral, Pulwama and his father Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din. All martyr jawans were posted in Ist JAKLi.
Eleven injured included Lt Col Rohit Solanki, Major Avijit Singh, Lance Naik Bahadur Singh, Havaldar Abdul Hamid Rashid, Paramajeet Kour, relative of Subedar Madan Lal Choudhary, Neha daughter of Madan Lal Choudhary, Somati Jena son of Havaldar Haripoda Jena, wife and daughter of Havaldar Satyendra, Subedar Rajinder Singh and Shahzada Khan wife of Rifleman Nazir Ahmad.
Sources said that a search operation of the family quarters in the Army complex for evacuation of people and to ascertain the situation was underway. A number of families were still in the camp and the Army’s aim was to ensure their safety, he said.
Sources said that investigation is on to find out where from the terrorists came. “Whether they infiltrated from Pakistan or came from Kashmir is being investigated,” they added.
Army pressed helicopters, drones, tanks and other modernized equipments to track down the militants and ensure that there were no more casualties of Army and civilians, which took place after the initial contact yesterday morning.
The Para Commandos of Army, who were airlifted from Udhampur yesterday, along with the troops including Bomb Disposal Squad were searching, sanitizing and clearing the family quarters one by one.
The ‘fidayeen’ terror attack on an Army installation in the Sunjuwan area of Jammu region is one of the many such attacks in J&K in the recent past.
Terrorists, especially foreigners, have been targeting the various installations of security forces in the State, mostly during the night, to inflict maximum damage.
On the last day of 2017, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants carried out a suicide attack at a CRPF camp at Lethpora in Pampore in Pulwama district, killing six CRPF personnel. Two of the terrorists were also shot dead.
On August 26 last year, eight security forces personnel, including four CRPF jawans, were killed when a group of terrorists attacked District Police Lines in Pulwama, triggering an encounter in which three militants were also killed.
Before that, on 16th June, six police personnel including, an SHO, were killed in Achabal in Anantnag district. Two civilians were also injured.
A group of militants had laid an ambush on a police party in the Achabal area. The terrorists surrounded the police party, opened fire from all directions and killed Achabal police station SHO, Feroz Ahmed Dar, and five others.
Days before that, on June 5, four militants were killed in retaliatory fire by security forces as they attempted to attack a CRPF camp at Sumbal in Bandipora district of J-K early morning.
In another fidayeen attack last year, JeM militants killed three Army troopers at Panjgaon of Chowkibal in Kupwara district on April 27 when they attacked the Army Garrison.
Before that on January 9 last year, three civilians working as labourers were killed in a pre-dawn attack by militants on a GREF camp near LoC in Akhnoor sector of Jammu District.
In 2016, 18 Army personnel were killed when terrorists attacked an Army infantry battalion in Uri area in Baramulla district of North Kashmir on September 18. Four militants were also killed in the encounter.
The latest attack on the camp at Sunjuwan took place nearly 15 months after the Jammu region was hit by a similar attack.
On November 29, 2016, terrorists had stormed the Army’s Nagrota camp on the outskirts of the city, killing seven personnel, including two officers. Three terrorists were gunned down in the operation.
Yesterday, the terrorists had struck before dawn and managed to sneak into the camp from the rear end of the base after a brief exchange of fire with the sentry guarding the periphery.
The terrorists entered the family accommodation complex after which quick response teams cordoned off the area and isolated the terrorists, who were holed up in a few houses (inside the camp).
While there was no action around the main entrance and vehicles were moving along the Jammu-Lakhanpur bypass in front of the camp, Army personnel in bullet-proof vehicles were engaged in the operation to rescue people from the family quarters in the rear side of the base.
Contingents of CRPF and police were posted outside the boundary wall and were keeping curious onlookers at bay to prevent civilian casualties.
A high alert has been sounded in Jammu and security beefed up in and around the city.
Intelligence inputs had warned of an attack on an Army or security establishment by the Pakistan-based JeM in view of the death anniversary of Afzal Guru, who was hanged on February 9, 2013, for the 2001 attack on Parliament House.
In Delhi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh exuded confidence that the ongoing operation against terrorists would be successfully concluded soon.
“I think it is not proper for me to comment when the operation is still on. I’m sure that our jawans, who are in the operation, will successfully conclude it,” he told reporters.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi condemned the attack and said all Indians across political lines stand united with the Army men and women.


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