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Monday, September 19, 2016

17 soldiers killed, 19 injured in fidayeen attack on Uri brigade hqs

All 4 ‘Pak militants’ killed; unprecedented damage to Army in 27 years of insurgency happens in Modi rule; 3 barracks set on fire; Defence Minister, Army chief visit Srinagar ahead of crucial CCSA meeting

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Sep 18: In an audacious bloodbath, unprecedented in the last 27 years of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, suspected Pakistani fidayeen of Jaish-e-Mohammad on Sunday left 17 Indian Army soldiers dead and 19 more injured when they carried out a sneak attack on headquarters of the strategically important 12th Infantry Brigade at Uri, close to LoC, in northern Kashmir.

Well-placed sources in the Union and the State governments revealed to STATE TIMES that a group of four meticulously trained and heavily armed guerrillas, equipped with guns, grenades and GPS devices and unmistakably on a suicide mission, sneaked into the Brigade headquarters premises after cutting concertina fence wire at around 5.15 a.m. In just three minutes, they lobbed a blitz of 17 grenades and left the troops perplexed. They also set on fire three barracks and targeted the administrative buildings.

In the three-hour-long operation, that was also joined by special forces, as many as 17 soldiers were killed and 19 injured. Those killed in the attack included four unarmed chefs and a painter while others were personnel of the ranks of sepoy, naik, lance naik and havildar. Fifteen of them belonged to 6-Bihar and two to 10-Dogra regiment. Army said that all the four suicide actors were eliminated in the operation but their bodies were not shown to media.

All the 19 injured were airlifted and admitted to Army’s 92 Base Hospital in Srinagar, though some of them were initially treated at the local 419-Field Hospital at Uri. Four of them were reportedly critical. Of them, one was rushed from Srinagar to Army’s Referal and Research Hospital, New Delhi, by an air ambulance. Since the Army’s CVTS surgeons were reportedly on leave, 92 Base Hospital requisitioned a team of doctors from SKIMS. Sources said that two Kashmiri Muslim surgeons worked hard and they saved the life of at least three seriously injured soldiers.

Sources said that the bodies would be flown by a special plane from Srinagar to New Delhi after a wreath-laying ceremony at Headquarters 15 Corps on Monday. Later, a high profile wreath-laying ceremony, likely to be joined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ministers of his Cabinet and top Defence and civil officials, would be held in the Union Capital. Thereafter, mortal remains of all the slain soldiers would be despatched to their respective places of residence.

Union Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, and Chief of Army Staff, Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, arrived in separately from New Delhi to gather first-hand account of the attack so as to strategize India’s response. The Army chief flew to Uri and interacted with the officers and the soldiers there for over one hour while the mopping up operation was still underway. On his return, Gen Suhag briefed Defence Minister about the whole episode that is threatening to assume proportions of the response India witnessed after a terror attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001.

After visiting the injured soldiers at 92 Base Hospital and interacting with senior officers, including GOC-in-C Northern Command, Lt Gen D.S. Hooda, and GOC of 15 Corps, Lt Gen Satesh K. Dua, Parrikar and Gen Suhag flew back to New Delhi where Cabinet Committee on Security Affairs is expected to meet and take a call over the Indian response to the terror attack on Monday. Prime Minister Modi is expected to preside over the meeting. Sources said that union Home Secretary Rajiv Maharishi could also visit Srinagar.

Unprecedented damage

In the 300-odd fidayeen attacks, which were introduced in J&K after Pakistan’s defeat in the Kargil war with a suicide strike on BSF’s Sector-11 headquarters at Mader, Bandipore, on July 13, 1999 (when DIG BSF and four soldiers got killed), 17 soldiers have never died in a single operation. Army suffered more loss in the Kaluchak fidayeen attack in Jammu but that time the victims were more from the soldiers’ families rather than the troops. Three Army soldiers, 18 of their family members and 10 civilians had died in so far the bloodiest fidayeen attack at Kaluchak on May 14, 2002.

Headquarters of the strategic Uri brigade have never been attacked since 1989 though an officer commanding this brigade, Brigadier Sreedhar, was the first senior Army officer who was killed in an IED blast in Kashmir at a forward position in March 1995. In the border township of Uri, the only major militant attack occurred at a PDP rally on April 8, 2003, when 11 civilians were killed and 58 injured. Senior PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig, who later became Deputy Chief Minister, had a narrow escape in that grenade attack.

In the last fidayeen attack in Kashmir, 8 CRPF men were killed and 21 left injured on the highway at Pampore on June 25, 2016. That came nearly 18 months after a suicide strike on an Army's 31 Field Regiment at Mahore (Baramulla-Uri Road) in the thick of Assembly elections on December 5, 2014. Eight Army soldiers, including Lt Col Sankalp Kumar of 24 Punjab, 3 J&K Police personnel, including ASI Mohammad Akbar, and 6 militants were among the 17 fatal casualties at the encampment as some barracks were destroyed in fire.

Sunday’s fidayeen attack in Uri came in days of a publicly held out warning by Pakistan-based Hizbul Mujahideen chief, Syed Salah-ud-din, and the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba ideologue, Hafiz Sayeed, who threatened to train and indoctrinate Kashmiri suicide bombers and vowed to turn Kashmir “into a graveyard of the Indian soldiers”. They spoke in favour of the separatist turmoil created by the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s death in an encounter on July 8. On Sunday, the Valley witnessed 72nd day of continued shutdown. Eighty-six people have died and thousands have got injured in the Valley-wide clashes that are still unceasing.

Even as officials held Jaish-e-Mohammad responsible for today’s attack, none of the guerrilla groups, claimed responsibility till late in the night.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

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