SRINAGAR: The death toll from a militant attack on an army base in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir climbed to 10, police said, as a siege at the compound stretched into a second day. A firefight erupted Saturday when an unknown number of heavily-armed militants stormed the base in Jammu, the second-largest city in the disputed Himalayan region bordering Pakistan. Authorities initially said four people were killed in the brazen pre-dawn strike, but updated the death toll as elite Indian commandos flanked by armored vehicles searched the sprawling compound. “Five soldiers, one civilian and four terrorists have been killed so far,” police chief Shesh Paul Vaid told AFP.
Nine others, including women and children, were injured in the attack that the Indian army blamed on Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). Local broadcasters showed tanks rolling into the Sunjawan army camp late Saturday and a helicopter hovering overhead as the attack unfolded. Police said the assault began around 4:55 am on Saturday (2325 GMT Friday) when guards came under a hail of bullets near the base’s boundary wall. The intruders took positions inside a residential complex meant for soldiers’ families as the army launched a counter-offensive to drive them out.
It is still unclear whether any gunmen remain on the compound. Hindu-majority Jammu, located in the foothills of the mountainous region, is relatively peaceful but has repeatedly seen militant assaults on military bases close to the frontier with Pakistan. Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from Britain in 1947. Both claim the territory in full and have fought two wars over the region. Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have died in an armed insurgency that erupted in 1989 by militants demanding that Kashmir be granted independence or merged with Pakistan.
Saturday’s attack comes 18 years after a similar militant attack on the base in 2003 that killed 12 soldiers. Seven soldiers were killed in an attack in Jammu after suspected Pakistani militants in police uniforms stormed a major army base in November 2016. New Delhi accuses Islamabad of sending armed militants, including JeM, across the border to attack the roughly half a million soldiers stationed in the Indian-administered part of the divided territory, a charge denied by Pakistan. In late 2016, India said its soldiers destroyed militant bases inside Pakistan-administered Kashmir after 19 soldiers were killed in an assault on an army base.- AFP