In one of the worst terrorist attacks on the Indian Army by fidayeen attackers, at least 17 army jawans were killed in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri when a four-man fidayeen squad attacked the rear office of an Indian Army infantry installation early Sunday morning. Most of the martyred soldiers were from 10 Dogra and 6 Bihar regiments. The initial investigations by the Army indicated the role of Jaish-e-Mohammed in the attack with weapons recovered from the slain terrorists having Pakistan marking.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly condemned the attack and said the perpetrators will be brought to justice. Home Minister Rajnath Singh echoed his sentiments and targeted “terrorist state” Pakistan and said it will be identified and isolated.
Uri town is located barely a few kilometres from the LOC. There is normally heavy presence of army in and around Uri town and on the LoC. The attack, however, has left officials surprised. It comes two years after militants stormed a camp in Mohra in Uri, 15 kilometres away from the location of Sunday’s attack.
Reports suggest the attackers sneaked inside the rear office — where most of the battalion’s administrative work is done — at around 5:15 am and started firing indiscriminately. Intense firing ensued between army jawans and the fidayeen attackers. Special forces and paratroopers were airdropped at the base to carry out the encounter. After a lengthy engagement, all four attackers were killed but several jawans were also martyred. Many others were also critically injured.
The Army sent three choppers for support from its 19 divisional headquarters in Baramulla to Uri. The injured personnel were airlifted to Army’s 92 base hospital in Srinagar. The operation was monitored by northern infantry divisional commander based in Baramulla. Security has been beefed up in the sector and the entire town of Uri is sealed and in lockdown. Combing operations in and around the installation are underway and security on vital roads connecting the Line of Control (LOC) has been beefed up.
Addressing the issue, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said: “J&K has always been worst victim of Indo-Pak hostility & its people have been paying a colossal price for same for past over six decades. Heartfelt condolences to bereaved families and also pray for early recovery of those injured in the attack.”
Interestingly, Intelligence officials in Srinagar told The Indian Express that multiple infiltration alerts, including a specific detailed IB alert generated on September 15 warned about the possibility of a fidayeen attack in Uri, possibly by a Pakistani border action team (BAT).
“Our alert was not about a possible skirmish…it mentioned a BAT being mobilised and Uri being the specific target,” a top official said.
Soon after information on the attack in Uri came in public domain, Lt Gen SA Hasnain (retd), a former Brigade Commander in Uri himself and a former GOC of Srinagar-based 15 Corps, tweeted that just ten days back he had warned the present Brigade Commander in Uri about such an attack being in the offing. This clearly shows that information and intelligence of a fidayeen attack existed and was known even to Kashmir watchers.
Sources in Army’s Northern Command as well as the 15 Corps said intelligence suggested Pakistan wanted a ‘spectacular’ strike to demonstrate to the leaders of the civil unrest in the valley that it was not sitting by silently in military aspects.
“The aim was to boost the morale of the civil unrest handlers by assuring them that the capability to hit out across the Line of Control still exists,” said a senior officer.
After the attack, Home Minister Rajnath Singh held a high level security meeting around noon with top Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials at his residence. The meeting was attended by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Home Secretary Rajeev Mehrishi, Defence Secretary G. Mohan Kumar, Director General Military Operations (DGMO) Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, CRPF DG and IB Chief.
Minister of State for Defence Suresh Bhamre said that the barracks inside the compound caught fire during the firing and that led to the heavy casualties. As preventive measures, the MHA issued alert across the country for all airports.
The Prime Minister and other ministers lambasted the perpetrators of the attacked insisting action on the people behind the attacks. They also pulled up Pakistan for its role in the attacks calling it a “terrorist state”. Criticism for Pakistan’s cross-border terror sponsorship came from all political quarters in the country.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and Congress General Secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad told ANI: “Many terrorists have been killed at the border by our soldiers. May be they were angry because of this. This year, a record of sorts has been created by the soldiers of the Indian Army by killing all the infiltrators from Pakistan in Kashmir. We are very sad about this entire incident and entire country stands behind the Army of our country. We show total solidarity with the forces of our country.”
President Pranab Mukherjee took to Twitter and condemned the attack. He tweeted:
Strongly condemn outrageous terrorist attack on Army base in Uri; tributes to brave soldiers who made supreme sacrifice #PresidentMukherjee
— President of India (@RashtrapatiBhvn) September 18, 2016
India will not be cowed down by such attacks, we will thwart the evil designs of terrorists and their backers #PresidentMukherjee
— President of India (@RashtrapatiBhvn) September 18, 2016
CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury said, “Pakistan must refrain from indulging in cross border terrorism. It should be taken up seriously.”
While former Home Secretary R.K. Singh said: “IF you term it a terror attack then you are misleading yourself. These attacks are planned by ISI and Pakistan Army. Only way to handle these attacks is to hit back.”
International sympathies also followed soon. US ambassador to India Richard Verma said US strongly condemns the terror attack in Uri. “Our thoughts are with families of soldiers who lost their lives,” he said.
Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag visited the injured jawans at the hospital in Srinagar.