Dressed in army fatigues, Terrorists stormed a police station and then an army camp in Jammu region killing 10 people including an army officer in twin 'fidayeen' attacks after they sneaked in from across the border early today, barely three days ahead of a meeting between Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan.
The three heavily armed terrorists, believed to be from banned Pakistan-based terror group LeT and who were holed up in the camp of the cavalry armoured unit at Samba for several hours after they barged into the Officers mess, have been killed during a fierce gunfight, Army officials said in Delhi.
The bodies of the three terrorists aged between 16 and 19 are in the custody of the Army, they said.
In the worst terror attack on a security establishment in Jammu region in 10 years, officials said six people including four policemen were killed in the 'fidayeen' (suicide) strike on the police station in Hiranagar in Kathua close to International Border (IB) by the terrorists while four army personnel including a Lieutenant Colonel died at Samba camp.
"As per preliminary information, the four terrorists came from across the border," Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters in Delhi. A police official said it was a case of "fresh infiltration" and the terrorists crossed the IB most probably in the wee hours of today.
Lt Col Bikramjeet Singh, the second-in-command of the unit stationed at the camp, was among the four slain Army personnel.
The unit's Commanding Officer (CO) Col A Uthaiah, who was among the three injured at the Army Camp, has been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at a hospital in Pathankot.
A lesser-known militant outfit 'Shohada Brigade' claimed responsibility for the attack.
"We carried out the attacks in Kathua and Samba in Jammu region," a person who identified himself as Sami-ul-Haq, the spokesperson of the outfit, told PTI on phone. He claimed they were locals.
J& K DGP Ashok Prasad said the terrorists had boarded an auto at gun point from Hariya Chuk graveyard in village Jhandi, barely one km from the IB and asked the driver Roshan Lal to take the vehicle to an Army camp at Hiranagar.
Unable to locate the camp, the terrorists stormed the police station at 6.45 AM hurling grenades where they killed a sentry at the gate and then an ASI Ratan Singh and a Special Police Officer. A constable, who was resting on the second floor of the police station, was also gunned down in the indiscriminate firing, Police said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif are due to meeet in New York on September 29 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
The auto driver, who managed to escape after dropping the terrorists at the police station, informed the police that they had also gunned down a PCO owner Suresh before hijacking a tempo truck which had been seized by the police the previous night.
The tempo driver was asked to be taken to a nearby Army camp at Samba--about 18 km from the Hiranagar police station-- while the cleaner Mohammed Feroz, a resident of Kashmir Valley, was shot dead.
IGP, Jammu region, Rajesh Kumar said the terrorists abandoned the tempo and may have taken another vehicle from there and reached the army camp in Samba where they opened indiscriminate firing on jawans deployed at its security gate and stormed the premises.
They barged into the Army Mess where they resorted to heavy indiscriminate firing as troops geared up and retaliated resulting in a fierce gunbattle.
Army moved in crack commandos and quick action teams inside the camp where TV footages showed tanks moving inside in the hunt for the militants.
At the army camp, gunshots were heard from inside the walled compound. Two officers were seen running out carrying an injured man over their shoulder.
"I was inside the dhaba (a roadside eatery) when I saw three men entering the camp firing a barrage of bullets. They opened the gates and entered," an unidentified man told TV channels.
The traffic on the Jammu-Pathankot highway near the area of the attack at the police station was briefly suspended.
The attack seen by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah as an attempt to derail the talks between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan came a day after Manmohan Singh left for the US. BJP has demanded that the talks be cancelled.
The identification of all 10 persons killed in today's twin militant attack in Jammu region has been done, officials said.
Four persons killed in attack on Samba Army camp of 16 Army Cavalry unit have been identified as Second-in-Command of the unit Lt Col Bikramjeet Singh, sepoy Kiran Kumar Reddy, sepoy M S Rao and sepoy Daya Singh.
The injured have been identified as commanding officer of the unit, Col Avin Achien and Sepoy Inder Singh, a defence spokesman said.
Six persons killed in attack on a police station in Hiranagar of Kathua district have been identified as ASI Rattan Singh, selection grade constable Kuldeep Singh, constable Shiv Kumar, special police officer Mukesh Kumar, and shopkeepers Suresh Kumar and Firdous Ahmed, police officials said.
Those injured in the attack include ASI Ganga Ram, constable Rattan Chand and auto-rickshaw driver Roshan Lal, they added.
In New Delhi, sources said the Army had rushed quick reaction teams of the 14 Assam and 25 Sikh Infantry battalions to cordon off the Army camp area in Samba and carry out the operations.
The Army is now in process of ordering investigations to find out the lapses, if any, on part of the unit and whether there was any kind of negligence in observing the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), they said.
In the recent incident in Poonch where five Indian troops were killed by Pakistani troops inside Indian territory, the Army had reportedly found out lapses in observing SOPs.
Sources said the terrorists had entered the unit from a gate which was close to the officers' mess, and shot down sentry Kiran Kumar, who hailed from Thiruvananthpuram, in indiscriminate firing.
Tanks were deployed by the unit to hunt down the terrorists and it is learnt that a portion of the officers' mess was badly damaged in the process.
16 Cavalry had last year witnessed a case where officers and jawans faced-off after suicide by a jawan, apparently over the issue of denial of leave.
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