Three heavily armed terrorists attacked a police station and an Army camp in the border districts of Kathua and Samba in Jammu and Kashmir Thursday morning,killing 10 people,including four policemen and a lieutenant colonel of the Army.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said the attack was an attempt to derail the talks between Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif scheduled in New York on Sunday.
The terrorists,who were dressed in Army fatigues and were carrying automatic rifles and grenades,stormed Hiranagar police station around 6.45 am,killing four policemen and two civilians. Within the next hour,they had fought their way into an Army camp 22 km away in adjoining Samba district,where they killed four Army personnel including Lt Col Bikramjit Singh,second in command of the16 Cavalry unit.
All three terrorists were killed after a protracted gunbattle at the camp. Sources said that a special Army unit,9 Para Commandos,was called in for the final battle.
An outfit calling itself the Shohada Brigade claimed responsibility for the attack. But security forces believe the Lashkar-e-Toiba was behind it.
Speaking to reporters in Srinagar before leaving for Jammu,Omar said,From the timing of these attacks and our history and location of the attack,it is clear that its aim is to derail the dialogue between the Indian Prime Minister and his Pakistani counterpart in New York.
He said,They have always tried to derail any peace process that is sought to be initiated and have wished to keep the turmoil in the state going on… I condemn this attack and express my condolences with the families of those… who have lost their lives.
Defence spokesman S N Acharya said the Commanding Officer of the unit,Col Avin Uthaiya,took bullets in the chest and stomach,but has undergone surgery and is now stable in hospital.
The policemen killed at Hiranagar have been identified as ASI Rattan Singh and constables Pradeep Singh,Shiv Kumar Sangra and Mukesh Kumar. Policemen Rattan Chand,Gangu Ram and Roshan Lal were injured.
Inspector General of Police,Jammu,Rajesh Kumar,said the terrorists appeared to have entered India only in the past 24 hours. Sources,however,said it was likely that they were in the area for several days,studying their targets.
The strikes were the first in Kathua in a decade and in Samba in five years. Terrorists had killed seven bus passengers on the national highway at Hiranagar in 2002,and six in Samba in 2008. In view of the long spell of peace,Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has repeatedly demanded the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from both districts.
Sources said the three terrorists were first spotted at Haria Chak,nearly 4 km from the international border in Paharpur,where they commandeered an auto-rickshaw and drove to the the CRPF camp at Hiranagar. They passed the Chadwal police post and the office of the sub-divisional police officer (SDPO),Border,on their way,but did not open fire.
Before reaching the CRPF camp,they crossed Hiranagar police station,but did not attack it. However,after seeing the sentries at the CRPF camp,they turned back and this time stopped 100 metres from the police station.
They shot dead Subhash Kumar,who was opening his STD booth,threw a grenade at the auto that they had come by,and walked to the police station.
They entered the station premises through a small entrance within the main door and came across an SPO,who asked them why they had visited. They abused him,and the SPO,probably taking the terrorists to be Armymen,did not react.
On entering the station building,the terrorists opened fire immediately,killing two policemen and a civilian. They then went to the buildings first floor and,finding no one there,carried on to the second floor,where they murdered two more policemen. Station House Officer Naresh Kumar Padha was apparently in the first floor bathroom then.
The attackers then came out and shot the cleaner of a truck and took the vehicles driver hostage. They also injured several civilians outside the station. They then made the driver take the truck to Samba.
From the time they hijacked the auto near Hariya Chak near the international border to the time then reached Samba,the terrorists were not challenged at any police checkpoint. Policement at Hiranagar station seemed to have been taken by surprise,even though a civilian had been shot and an auto blown up nearby only minutes ago.
IGP (Jammu) Rajesh Kumar said a meeting would be convened to look at the alleged lapses of security. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said in Srinagar that he would hold a meeting of the unified command headquarters in Jammu to study a possible security lapse.
According to eyewitnesses,the terrorists rode the truck brandishing their weapons and shouting Allah hu Akbar,but were not intercepted at the police nakas at Kota Morh,Ghagwal and Jatwal. They left the truck at Dayani and walked to the gate of the 16 Cavalry unit near the Army Officers Mess.
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