Intruders gunned down in Jammu and Kashmir

Soldier killed in Naugam; Cabinet panel meets today
Last Updated 20 September 2016, 20:27 IST

The Army on Tuesday gunned down a group of infiltrators which tried to cross over to the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC) under the cover of Pakistani firing in Jammu and Kashmir.

This incident came even as the government mulled over options to retaliate against Pakistan for an audacious terror strike that killed 18 soldiers in Uri town two days ago.

Another infiltration bid was foiled in Naugam, where one soldier was killed, defence officials said. The exact number of casualties was not immediately known as gun battles were underway in both places.

Tuesday’s developments came as the government was set to finalise an “appropriate” strategic response to the September 18 attack. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is due to meet on Wednesday.

The encounters followed a “blatant provocation” by Pakistani forces which violated the ceasefire, forcing the Army to retaliate with full might, officials said in New Delhi.

The Pakistani troops first resorted to heavy gunfire with small and automatic firearms from across the LoC. No damage was caused to the Indian posts. While unconfirmed reports said 10 militants and a soldier had been killed in the encounters so far, officials didn’t confirm it.

Defence spokesman Col S D Goswami said in Srinagar that “our troops deployed in the Uri sector, reacting to a suspicious movement, intercepted a group of terrorists near the LoC and foiled an infiltration bid.”

“Another infiltration bid was foiled in Naugam sector. Operations are in progress,” he said, without elaborating.

As for options before the government, top officials remained tight-lipped, indicating that the timing of actions held the key to best results. The options that have been debated within the military circles included precision airstrikes on terrorist camps in Pakistan; raids by special forces; missiles directed at Pakistani posts; and use of heavy artillery across the
LoC to inflict heavy casualties on the Pakistani side.

However, the CCS, which will meet under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chairmanship, is expected to focus on a rather calibrated, strategic response rather than a knee-jerk reaction, according to sources.

The government had on Monday indicated that it could choose from a range of options – starting from diplomatic isolation of Pakistan to a series of military and intelligence offensives – in its response to the attack on the Uri base. It also hinted that India’s response will be at multiple levels and not restricted to a tactical operation on or across the LoC. As a first step towards this end, Tuesday’s action on the group of infiltrators was seen as the result of the Army going on high alert.

One of the top priorities of the commanders is to boost the perimeter security of the army installations in Jammu and Kashmir as the infiltration activities are on a high compared with the last couple of years.

An assessment by the Northern Command identified five core lapses that could have led to the terrorist attack. Top sources said the attack was not possible without let-ups in following the standard operating procedures at locations close to the LoC.

The lapses apparently included the militants being able to cross the double barbed-wire fence, supposed to be patrolled round the clock. Secondly, they breached the perimeter fencing of the military camp. Thirdly, soldiers who were part of an advance party were putting up in tents in the open.

Fourth, the tents were too close to the fuel dump of the Uri brigade. Fifth, only a few armymen had weapons in ready-to-fire mode.

(Published 20 September 2016, 20:24 IST)

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