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Jammu army camp attack: Security breached despite high alert around ‘Afzal Guru day’

What makes the security lapse glaring is the fact that the attack on Sunjuwan army camp took place in Jammu, considered relatively safer than the Kashmir Valley.

india Updated: Feb 11, 2018 09:08 IST
Rajesh Ahuja
Rajesh Ahuja
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sunjuwan army camp attack,Jammu army camp attach,Jammu attack
Soldiers stand guard outside an army camp after militants attacked the camp, in Jammu, February 10, 2018. (REUTERS)

The militant attack on an army camp in Jammu on Saturday came amid a high alert for potential terror strikes on the fifth anniversary of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s hanging, exposing lapses in security measures around defence installations.

At least two soldiers were killed and nine others injured when a group of suspected JeM militants infiltrated the Sunjuwan camp and opened fire. The three militants were killed after an hours-long gun-battle.

“A high alert had been sounded in the Valley and for Jammu as well to watch out for possible (militant) attacks on the anniversary of Afzal Guru’s hanging,” said a central security official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“Though there was no specific intelligence about the Sunjuwan army camp being the target, but once the attack started, intel channels confirmed that it was handiwork of the JeM,” the official added.

What made the lapse glaring is the fact that the attack took place in Jammu, considered relatively safer than the Kashmir Valley where militants find safe passage and shelter among sympathisers to their cause.

A former Intelligence Bureau officer Arun Chaudhary, who had served in Jammu and Kashmir twice, said “terrorists are challenging the aura of invincibility of the Indian army”.

“Both Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish leaders in Pakistan have made their intentions known that they will target security forces in J&K. The army needs to out more resources in guarding its installations,” said Chaudhary, a retired IPS officer.

The Sunjuwan camp had faced a similar attack 14 years ago when two fidayeen militants cut through barbed wires to enter the military base in Jammu on June 28, 2003. At least 12 soldiers were killed in the attack.

Earlier too Jaish militants had managed to strike at security forces despite advance warnings.

Last year, Jammu and Kashmir police had claimed to have specific intelligence about a possible attack on a CRPF camp in Lethpora in Pulwama. But three JeM operatives still managed to infiltrate the camp on December 31 and kill five force personnel before being gunned down.

Even before that, Lashkar militants had managed to attack an army camp at Uri in September 2016 and kill 17 soldiers, despite an alert by the IB on the possibility of a suicide attack in the region. It was one of the deadliest militant attacks on a defence installation in India.

Even before the militant attack on the Pathankot airbase in January 2016, security agencies had intercepted conversations between four JeM operatives and their handlers in Pakistan that suggested an imminent attack on a defence installation in Punjab. It came a few hours later when militants sneaked into the airbase and killed six security personnel and one civilian.

Police officers and soldiers stand guard outside an army camp after militants attacked the camp in Jammu. (Reuters Photo)

The central security official, however, said that “army installations in J&K are...have always been high on list of possible targets of Pakistani infiltrators”.

The official said that attacks symbolising avenging the hanging of Afzal Guru has “has become a favoured propaganda tool of Jaish” in the last few years.

The Pakistan-based JeM had raised an ‘Afzal Guru squad’ to avenge the hanging of the parliament attack mastermind in Tihar jail on February 9, 2013.

“There have been more than half-a-dozen attacks so far wherein Jaish suicide attackers operatives have left notes and painted walls before being killed that the strike was carried out by the Afzal Guru Squad,” the official added.

In March 2015, at the site of an attack on a police post in Kathua and army camp in Samba, notes that the attack was the handiwork of the Afzal Guru squad were found. During the Pathankot attack, a note was left by the attackers that they belonged to the squad.

Even during an effort to attack the Indian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan, the attackers wrote on the wall of building where they were hiding that they had come to take revenge for Afzal Guru. Another message on the wall read: “Eik shaheed, hazar fidayeen (One martyr, thousand fidayeen).”

In August and November, 2016, attacks on a district police complex in Pulwama and on an army camp in Tanghdar in Kupwara were also claimed by the Afzal Guru squad.

Jammu and Kashmir police chief SP Vaid said that the anniversaries of the hanging of Afzal Guru and one of the founders of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Maqbool Butt (February 11), are days when there has always been high alert.

“This time also the situation was no different,” he added.

(With inputs from Ravi Krishnan Khajuria in Jammu)

First Published: Feb 11, 2018 07:35 IST