In two daredevil attacks, one after another, on a police station at Hiranagar in Kathua district of Jammu and a military formation in the adjoining Samba district, bordering Punjab state, militants have killed four policemen and six Army personnel in the morning on Thursday. The attack, first of its kind in Jammu province in the last 11 years, has occurred ahead of the scheduled meeting between the Indian and the Pakistani Prime Ministers, Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharief, as also a UN General Assembly session in New York.
Official sources told The Hindu that three to four militants in combat uniform arrived at Hiranagar police station in an auto rickshaw 6:40 a.m. and trooped into the premises without facing resistance. They fired indiscriminately and lobbed hand grenades. Four policemen died in the attack, according to the preliminary reports awaiting formal authoritative confirmation.
Sources said that the militants also gunned down the cleaner of a truck and hijacked the vehicle alongwith its driver and drove away towards the national highway. One more civilian reportedly died in exchange of gunfire.
Even as the police alerted all police, paramilitary and Army units, the militants stormed a formation of 16 Cavalry on the highway at Samba. Both Hiranagar and Samba towns are situated just 5 to 10 kilometers from the International Border between India and Pakistan.
As a fierce gunbattle was on between the militants and the security forces, sources said that six Army personnel died in the beginning of the second suicide offensive. Traffic has been suspended on the highway and a large area cordoned off but it was not immediately clear whether the militants were still holed up or they had escaped from the area. An unconfirmed report from Samba, however, said that two militants died in the second attack.
Sources said that IGP Jammu Rajesh Kumar and DIG Jammu-Kathua range Shakeel Beg were among the senior Police officers who had reached Samba to oversee the operation alongwith senior army officials. Sources said that General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Northern Command Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra as well as GOC of Nagrota-based 16 Corps were also reportedly on way to Samba. None of the officers responded to phone calls even as Police Control Room Jammu flashed the information of six fatal casualties in Hiranagar and six more at Samba to most of the government functionaries.
This is the first fidayeen attack in Jammu and Kashmir after five CRPF men and three militants died in a suicide strike on a paramilitary camp at Bemina in Srinagar in March this year and eight army men were later killed in another fidayeen-type attack at Hyderpora in June.
Thursday’s twin fidayeen attacks in Hiranagar and Samba have taken place over a decade after the dreaded militant attacks on a military encampment at Kalu Chak and on Raghunath Mandir in Jammu city.