Indian artillery targets 4 terror camps across Line of Control
The Indian Army on Sunday mounted an artillery attack on at least four terror camps and Pakistani military positions across the Line of Control (LoC) in retaliation to ceasefire violations meant to assist infiltrators, killing at least six soldiers of the neighbouring country and inflicting heavy terrorist casualties, General Bipin Rawat said.
In the Indian firing by 155mm guns — the mainstay of the artillery firepower of the army — 6-10 Pakistani soldiers and about a dozen terrorists were killed in the Neelam Valley opposite the Tangdhar sector along the LoC, people with direct knowledge of the operation said. The artillery used in the Indian response has a range of 24-30km.
The counter-attack by India came after two Indian Army soldiers and a civilian were killed in unprovoked Pakistani firing on Saturday evening at Karnah in J&K’s Kupwara district, according to the army. Three others were also injured in the Pakistani firing that left one house, two cowsheds and a rice godown completely destroyed.
WATCH | 6-10 Pakistani soldiers killed, 3 terror camps destroyed: Gen Bipin Rawat
“On the basis of reports that we have been getting, 6-10 Pakistani soldiers have been killed; three terror camps have been destroyed. There have been damages to a fourth camp too. Similar number of terrorists have also been killed. In the retaliatory action, we have caused severe damage to terrorist infrastructure. Terrorist camps opposite Tangdhar sector have been destroyed,” Rawat said.
“Last evening, an attempt was made in Tangdhar to infiltrate terrorists and we retaliated… It was decided that we target terror camps across the LoC. We had the coordinates of these camps,” the army chief added.
The army chief briefed defence minister Rajnath Singh about the Indian response on Sunday. Singh congratulated General Rawat and his men for taking resolute action against terrorists while avoiding civilian casualties.
An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Sunday’s response could not be compared to the “surgical strikes” carried out against terror launch pads in 2016. On the intervening night of September 28-29 in 2016, the army carried attacked seven terror launch pads across the LoC in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK). The next day, it announced that India had mounted the offensive using Special Forces on the ground, inflicting “significant casualties” on terrorists.
Another official said that the calibrated escalation of area weapons was undertaken by India after the infiltration attempt on Saturday and that the army retains the right to respond in case the Pakistan Army continues to assist terrorist activities across Indian borders.
After the Indian action, Asif Ghafoor, the spokesperson for Pakistan’s armed forces, said that nine Indian soldiers were killed in its firing and two Indian bunkers were destroyed. He said that the Pakistani civilian casualties occurred in the Jura, Shahkot and Nousheri sectors, a claim rejected by India.
Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs also summoned Indian deputy high commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia after the Indian Army’s retaliation.
The counter-offensive measures come weeks after multiple intelligence agencies warned the government that at least 60 terrorists have infiltrated into Jammu & Kashmir recently and another 500 are waiting to infiltrate, according to the army.
The development follows India’s August 5 measures to nullify Article 370 of the Constitution, stripping J&K of its special status, and bifurcate the state into two Union territories — J&K and Ladakh.
In the previous big escalation of tensions between the two countries, on February 27 this year, Indian Air Force fighters flew deep into Pakistan to bomb a terror facility in reprisal for a February 14 suicide bombing in J&K’s Pulwama that killed 40 troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
Tensions between the sub-continental neighbours have remained high since the incident, which also triggered a dogfight between IAF fighters and Pakistani jets. In the air combat, a Pakistani fighter jet was downed and IAF, too, lost a Mig-21 Bison in Pakistani territory. Pakistan released the Indian jet’s fighter pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, two days after the incident amid international pressure.
New Delhi has repeatedly snubbed talks with Pakistan unless and until Islamabad stops terrorist groups from using its soil to launch cross-border attacks in India.
A recent document circulated among India’s intelligence agencies shows that Pakistan has eased restrictions on terror groups, including Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). The intel shows that JeM and LeT have stepped up their recruitment drives in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The Pakistan establishment is also making efforts to deploy more Kashmiri-origin terrorists in India in a bid to show that militancy is a “local phenomenon”, according to the document. These groups are planning an attack in response to the Indian move on Article 370, intelligence suggests.
The window for infiltration of terrorists along the LoC closes with approaching winter. Sectors such as Gurez, Kargil, Machhil, Keran, Tangdhar, Uri are snowbound by November making it difficult for terrorists to cross over. And as the winter approaches, infiltrating terrorists shift their focus to the Jammu-Kathua area.
Intelligence inputs indicate that several terror launch pads across the LoC are active again. Almost seven months after the Balakot operation, JeM has revived its terror training complex in the region. Islamabad relaxed restrictions over terror groups targeting India after August 5.
Speaking about Sunday’s counter-offensive, former Director General of Military Operations Lieutenant General (retd) Vinod Bhatia said: “Besides the obvious tactical reasons of sending in terrorists, at the strategic level, Pakistan is also trying to signal to the global community that Kashmir issue is and will turn violent. It has got a breather from the FATF (Financial Action Task Force), which helps the Pakistan Army to create problems along the border.”
Lieutenant General Satish Dua (retd), who commanded the Srinagar-based Chinar Corps, said: “I think one can expect bigger misadventures from Pakistan, now that they have evaded the FATF for few months.”