Not the first attack on Sunjuwan army camp: Militants had stormed base in 2003
Seventeen years ago, heavily armed Lashkar-e-Taiba militants (LeT) had attacked the Sunjuwan army camp killing at least 12 soldiers and leaving nine others injured.
Seventeen years ago in 2003, on a balmy June morning, two militants had cut through barbed wires to enter the Sunjuwan military base in Jammu to launch one of the most deadly attacks on an Indian defence installation.
The attack by the heavily armed Lashkar-e-Taiba militants (LeT) had left at least 12 soldiers dead and nine others injured, before they were shot dead after a five-hour-long gunbattle.
On Saturday, the military base came under attack again when a group of suspected Jaish-e-Mohammed militants stormed the camp. At least one soldier has been killed in an ongoing encounter between security forces and the militants, whose number was yet to be ascertained.
The attack came amid an alert for possible terror attacks in view of the anniversary of hanging Mohammed Afzal Guru, the 2009 Parliament attack mastermind.
Spread over an area of around seven square km, secured with a compound wall of 10 to 12 foot in height and armed soldiers guarding it round the clock, the Sunjuwan military base in Jammu is a veritable fortress at first sight.
But, as a defence official said, “Though it was a security lapse as two terrorists managed to enter the military station, fidayeen (suicide) attacks are near-impossible to thwart.”
“The military station has a jungle and dry wetland by the side of it. In fact, the military station was once a wetland and a jungle. The terrorists entered the camp through a nullah on its rear side,” he added.
The officer said that after the 2003 attack, the entire station was fortified with more bunkers, armed soldiers on various gates, concertina wires, digital iron gates and other surveillance gadgets.
He said that defence installations have always been the prime target of Pakistan-based outfits.
A floating population of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar have also settled around the station, whom a former army official identified as potential threats.
The front side of the station faces the Jammu-Srinagar by-pass road where big shopping malls and showrooms of various automobile companies have mushroomed in recent years.
Brigadier SS Saini, a war veteran, blamed previous governments for the attack, saying Rohingya and Bangladeshi settlements were allowed near the base.
“While a military station should not have any constructions within a 100 metre radius from its compound wall, in Sunjuwan, people have constructed their houses right next to our fence,” he said.
Saini also refuted allegations that the attack was due to failure on the part of the army.
“Had it been so, there would have been mass deaths inside the station.The sentry was the first responder and the QRTs (quick response teams) were quick to isolate them,” he added.
Sanjeev Sharma, a banker who lives in Channi Himmat Colony opposite the military station, said the ease with which the militants entered the camp showed that they had done a reconnaissance of the area.
The attack happened in the heart of Jammu, which clearly indicate that militant sympathisers helped them in locating the vulnerable stretch of the nullah to get inside the station, he added.