Jaish militants who attacked Sunjuwan military base ‘crossed over from Pakistan last year’, possibility of local help being probed
The attackers were all Pakistani citizens who had been operating in the Kashmir valley since last year, and had travelled to Jammu just days before the Sunjuwan military base attack, an official said.Updated: Feb 11, 2018 22:14 IST
The death toll in an operation to flush out militants holed up in a residential area of the Sunjuwan military station in Jammu rose to nine, with bodies of two more soldiers and a civilian recovered in search and sanitisation ops on Sunday, the Indian army said.
The three Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militants, who were killed in a pitched gun battle on Saturday, had stormed the army camp, attacking military personnel and civilians alike.
Ten other people were injured in the attack, including five women and a 14-year-old boy who is battling for life after a gunshot wound to the head.
“The militants were wearing army combat fatigues and were heavily armed. AK-56 rifles, grenade launchers, grenades and other ammo were recovered from them,” said a security official familiar with the initial probe into the attack.
The attackers were all Pakistani citizens who had been operating in the Kashmir valley since last year, and had travelled to Jammu just days before the attack, the official said.
An initial probe suggested the attackers had entered from a spot at the rear of the camp where the boundary was secured only with metal sheets. “One of the attackers, Qari Mushtaq alias Chotu, was active in Tral in south Kashmir. The two others have been identified as Mohammed Adil alias Irfan Bhai, who was operating in Sopore and Pulwama sectors, and Mohammed Khalid Khan alias Rashid Bhai, who was also active in Pulwama,” said the central security official, who asked not to be named.
Jammu & Kashmir’s police chief SP Vaid said the militants may have been helped with reconnaissance and ammunition by some local sympathisers.
“Information available with us suggests the attackers had crossed from Pakistan into the Kashmir valley sometime in July-August last year,” Vaid said. “We suspect they may not have taken the risk of travelling with weapons from the Valley to Jammu. It is possible that some local supporters may have provided them with arms and ammunition. This angle is being probed,” he added.
“It looks like they cut the tin sheets to enter inside the camp from the rear through a seasonal nallah (drain),” he confirmed.
Investigators have found syringes where the militants hid in the camp’s residential quarters before the attack. Suicide attackers have been known to take shots of morphine before launching attacks.
Officers of the J&K police and central security officials said there should have been better security arrangements to secure the boundary wall, especially since the camp had been attacked in 2003, suggesting it was vulnerable, and since such camps have been prime targets since the 2016 attack at a military base in Uri.
The attack was carried out in spite of a high alert for potential terror strikes because February 9 was the fifth anniversary of the hanging of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
As per the standard operating procedure, a team from the federal anti-terrorism probe agency, the National Investigating Agency (NIA), reached Jammu on Sunday.
“The investigation is likely to be handed over the NIA,” said a home ministry official, who asked not to be named.