NAGROTA is a strategically important garrison town located 14 kilometers from Jammu along the lifeline highway to Srinagar. One of the Army’s largest corps — the 16 Corps — is headquartered in the town. It is located just 54 km from the Army’s Northern Command headquarters in Udhampur, which oversees operations along two key frontiers: the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan as well as Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
The 16 Corps headquarters is located less than three kilometers from 166 Medium Regiment unit, which came under attack on Tuesday. The attack scene is far away from vulnerable infiltration-prone areas along the LoC and the international border. The recent major attacks have taken place close to the LoC and border. The nearest border from Nagrota is more than 40 kilometers, a distance that takes three hours to cover.
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Heavily armed terrorists had sneaked from across the border and stormed defence and police installations in case of attacks in Samba, Hiranagar and Pathankote earlier. The terrorists involved in the fresh attack are believed to have remained holed up in the vicinity before storming the Nagrota Army unit.
Sources said that the terrorists may have travelled from the Kashmir Valley, a possibility that has raised a question mark over the vigil maintained along the 300-km Jammu-Srinagar national highway. The tightly guarded highway is dotted by around a dozen police check posts and nakas. A defence ministry spokesperson said that three terrorists were killed following the fresh attack.
Police sources claimed that there may have been four attackers.
The army unit was the first defence installation the attackers came across on the national highway. They hurled grenades on the camp’s sentry before opening indiscriminate fire and scaling its gate. High-value targets such as 16 Corps Headquarters and the Kol Kandoli temple are located a little ahead of the attack scene.
Nagrota, a town of about 25,000 people, is also located en route to one of the most revered pilgrimage sites in the state — the Vaishno Devi shrine — where tens of thousands pilgrims pray around the year. The Kol Kandoli temple in Nagrota is in fact the first halt for pilgrims to Vaishno Devi, in Katra, around 30 km away. A separate township for migrant Kashmiri Pandits at Jagti is located in Nagrota as well, along with one of the prestigious Sainik schools.
Nagrota is a tehsil of Jammu district. National Conference leader Davinder Singh Rana represents it in the state Assembly. Rana’s elder brother, BJP leader and Minster of State in Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh, represents the neighbouring Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency.
The nearby Jammu city, the state’s winter capital, is also vulnerable as offices have shifted there from Srinagar recently.