By Amin Masoodi
Security forces in Indian Kashmir were on high alert Monday amid two deadly attacks mounted within a three-day span on defense installations by suspected Pakistan-based militant groups, including an assault that was still going on, officials said.
At least 10 people were killed in both attacks. The first one, which targeted an army camp in the Jammu region, began early Saturday and lasted close to 40 hours, followed by an attack on Monday against a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) base in Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir state.
A CRPF official was killed and another injured in the Srinagar attack by members of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), authorities said.
“We are going to eliminate them soon. The attackers have taken shelter in an under-construction building near the camp,” CRPF Inspector General Ravideep Sahi told BenarNews, adding that gunfire between at least two militants and Indian security forces had not stopped as of Monday evening.
Security has been heightened across Indian Kashmir in the wake of the back-to-back attacks, he added.
In the first attack, three suspected members of Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) stormed an army camp in Jammu city, killing five Indian security officials and a civilian. The attack was a rare assault by militants on the capital of the predominantly Hindu region of Jammu.
All three gunmen were killed in retaliatory fire late Sunday, Sahi said.
“There are two militants. We are engaged in a gun fight with them. They tried to storm the camp in the early hours of Monday. But we prevented that by opening fire. They then hid in a nearby building,” Sahi said of Monday’s attack.
The army, meanwhile, said that a search and clearance operation was continuing at the Sunjuwan army base in Jammu, where a woman and a child were among the injured during the weekend assault.
India, Pakistan trade accusations
The two attacks have raised tensions between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan, which both lay claim to the Himalayan region of Kashmir in its entirety. The territory, which is divided by a de facto border called the Line of Control (LoC), has grappled with a separatist insurgency that has claimed over 70,000 lives since the late 1980s.
“Pakistan will have to pay a price for this. Evidence of this terror attack will be handed over to Pakistan although it has never taken an action against perpetrators of such attacks in the past,” Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitaraman told reporters Monday.
The day before, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs hit back at criticism from India over the attack in Jammu, saying officials in New Delhi were leveling “unfounded allegations” and “irresponsible statements” toward Islamabad.
“We are confident that the world community would take cognizance of India’s smear campaign against Pakistan, and the deliberate creation of war hysteria,” the Pakistani ministry said in a statement.
It accused India of carrying out “state terrorism in the Indian-occupied Jammu & Kashmir” through incarceration of peaceful and unarmed demonstrators, extra-judicial killings and summary executions.
Elsewhere, LeT chief Mehmood Shah released a statement, claiming responsibility for the Srinagar attack.
“The freedom fighters are in complete control and will give a tough fight to Indian forces,” he said. “A handful of freedom fighters held Indian army’s stronghold for hours in Srinagar. India has always been made to pick up their dead during such fights.”
Indian agency looking into security at Jammu base
The attack in Jammu began around dawn on Saturday when the militants entered the residential area of the army camp and opened fire, police said.
“Three JeM operatives were killed after an intense exchange of fire that lasted almost 37 hours,” S.D. Jamwal, Jammu’s Inspector General of Police told BenarNews.
“Rifles and flags manufactured in Pakistan were recovered from the attackers, who were dressed in combat uniforms. We are still investigating the route they took to enter the camp,” he said without divulging the identities or nationalities of the attackers.
“It was a highly challenging operation as families had to be evacuated from around 150 apartments situated in the vicinity,” Lt. Col. Devender Anand told BenarNews.
The National Investigation Agency, India’s premier counter-terror unit will probe the Jammu attack, an official said.
“[The NIA] will probe how militants managed to barge into a highly fortified army base. And if the attackers took or received help from any locals or security officials,” a senior police officer told Benar on condition of anonymity.