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Proximity to IB, military base make Samba attractive target

Terrorists infiltrating across the IB at night can reach the Samba military station in a couple of hours, without need for a safe resting or hiding area.

Written by Sushant Singh | New Delhi |
Updated: March 22, 2015 1:47:46 am
Securitymen during an encounter with the militants at a police station in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir on Friday. (Source: PTI) Securitymen during an encounter with the militants at a police station in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir on Friday. (Source: PTI)

Saturday’s terror attack at the military camp in Samba follows another terror attack at the same military station in September last year, in which Lt Colonel Bikramjeet Singh died fighting the terrorists. Samba is located on NH-1A, and the International Border (IB) with Pakistan is barely 6 km from the town.

The proximity to the IB makes Samba an attractive target for terrorists. Terrorists infiltrating across the IB at night can reach the Samba military station in a couple of hours, without need for a safe resting or hiding area.

Former Northern Army Commander Lt Gen (retd) H S Panag said infiltration across the IB in the plains of Jammu is easier than across the Line of Control. “With rivulets and nullahs running across the border fence on the IB, the terrain in this region is more conducive to infiltration. Terrorists can then quickly reach the national highway,” Lt Gen Panag said.

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The nullahs are dry at this time of the year, but the area is covered with heavy undergrowth which flourished after last week’s rain. The fencing and anti-infiltration measures cannot prevent a small, determined group from crossing over at this time of the year, a BSF officer posted on the IB told The Sunday Express.

“Coming via the nullahs means that they don’t even have to cut the border fence. This makes it very difficult for us to identify the exact spot from where the infiltration occurred,” the officer said.

However, the fact that the border fence is not disturbed, other security agencies say, allows the BSF the scope to deny infiltration on its watch. Even after the September 2013 terror attack on Samba, the BSF had categorically denied that the terrorists had infiltrated across the IB.

“Since there was no physical cutting of the fence, the BSF claimed that the militants infiltrated across the LoC and not the IB. They came from Rajouri-Poonch, and travelled all the way through Jammu city and Samba to strike a small police station in Kathua, to then double back and strike Samba. Who would believe that?” said a senior J&K government official who was part of the discussions with the BSF and the Army after the terror attacks on a police station in Kathua and the Samba camp.

Compared to a terror attack in the Kashmir region, an attack in Jammu attracts a greater share of media attention and public reaction across India, making it an attractive target. “The Kathua-Jammu-Akhnoor region is a Hindu belt, and such an attack is win-win for the militants,” Lt Gen Panag said.

There have been allegations that the J&K Police are lax, their energies focused on trucks on the highway. While top police officers said this was no longer the case following the September 2013 attacks, Gen Panag said less pressure sometimes led to laxity. “As Jammu is not seen as a terror-affected region, the alertness levels of the security forces tend to be on the lower side,” Lt Gen Panag said.

The reaction of the Army to Saturday’s attack was, however, professional. Unlike last year, the terrorists were unable to enter either of the two military units in Samba.

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