Three terrorists stormed a police station and an army camp in Jammu on Thursday, killing 10 people before they were shot dead at the end of a fierce gunfight that lasted several hours.
The deadly attack comes days ahead of talks between the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers in New York, and immediately led to debate on whether those should take place. But PM Manmohan Singh said the dialogue process must go on, calling the twin attack “one more in a series of provocations and barbaric actions by enemies of peace”.
However, he added that India was resolved to defeat the “terrorist menace that continues to receive encouragement and reinforcement from across the border”.
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Singh, who turned 81, didn’t cut a cake on board the flight to Washington as a mark of respect for those killed — four police and four army personnel, and two civilians. “I convey my condolences to the families of the brave army and police officers and the innocent civilians martyred in this cowardly attack,” he said.
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said, “Given the history, timing and location, the aim is to derail the proposed meeting between PM Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart.”
The terrorists, in army fatigue, crossed the international border and boarded a vegetable truck at gunpoint to reach Hiranagar police station in Kathua district at 6.45am, official sources said. They shot and killed a shopkeeper and the sentry before barging in. “Inside, they killed four police personnel,” said IG Rajesh Kumar.
The three men then killed the truck’s cleaner and drove to the heavily fortified army camp in Samba, 40km from Jammu. In the officers’ mess, they shot dead Lt Col Bikramjeet Singh and three jawans. As a firefight broke out, the army pressed in choppers to locate the terrorists and rushed additional forces. “At 5pm, all three terrorists were shot dead,” said an officer.
Little-known Shohada Brigade, believed to be a front for the Hizbul Mujahideen, has claimed responsibility.
Denying the hand of Pakistan state agents, its high commissioner to India Salman Bashir said such a “senseless act of violence does not deter us from pursuing a path to a better future for our peoples”.
The border has been tense since August 5, when Pakistani troops killed five Indian soldiers in Poonch sector. There’s also been a massive jump in ceasefire violations by Pakistan this year.
Such acts won't derail peace efforts, says PM
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday condemned the terrorist attacks in Jammu and said such acts would not succeed in "derailing the efforts to find a resolution to all problems through dialogue".
"This is one more in a series of provocations and barbaric actions by the enemies of peace," Singh said in a statement, en route to the US to attend the UN General Assembly session on the sidelines of which he will meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on Sunday for talks."We are firmly resolved to combat and defeat the terrorist menace that continues to receive encouragement and reinforcement from across the border," he said.
Pakistan also condemned the attack, saying "Terrorism is a pernicious evil and Pakistan has been its foremost victim."
A statement by Pakistan High Commission said, "We are committed to leaving no stone unturned to eliminate the spectre of terrorist violence from our society and our region."
Meanwhile, BJP president Rajnath Singh asked the PM to call off the dialogue.
"The PM is in a hurry to start a dialogue with Pakistan. There should be no talks with Pakistan unless there is a conducive environment," Singh said on a Twitter post.
Rejecting BJP's demand to call off prime ministerial level talks with Pakistan in New York, Congress said the terror strike in Jammu is an attempt to derail the peace process and wondered whether the saffron party also wanted the same.
"Who are opposing Peace and dialogue? Only militants, BJP and drawing room hawks and some hawkish elements in the media," Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh tweeted.
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said the attacks were aimed at derailing the Singh-Sharif dialogue.
He told a news channel the two countries will be playing into the hands of the terrorists if they call off peace talks because of this attack.
"Given what we have seen over the past 20 years, I would speculate that this group had infiltrated within last 24 hours. I doubt that they had been there any longer than that," he said.
"We do know that from time to time, (the) forces inimical to dialogue have sought to derail the process even though the Pakistan government has thrown its weight behind such a process," he said.
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