Jammu, Sep 18 (IANS) Seventeen soldiers were killed in an audacious militant attack on army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir early on Sunday that also left four terrorists dead, military officials said.
Over two dozen soldiers were also injured in the attack which began at 5.30 a.m. when a group of heavily-armed terrorists targeted the rear administrative base of the army unit, the officials said.
The sneak attack triggered a massive gun battle that lasted well over two-and-a-half-hours, sending huge columns of black smoke rising into the sky.
Unofficial sources said most of the dead soldiers were from the Bihar Regiment. It was reportedly the biggest terror attack on any army camp in Jammu and Kashmir in about a decade.
After the fighting died down, soldiers continued to comb the camp for other militants who may be hiding as well as explosives they may have planted, the officials said.
No guerrilla group claimed responsibility for the bloodbath. But some reports said the guerrillas had recently infiltrated into the Indian side of the Line of Control from Pakistan.
The Northern Command of the Army issued a terse statement: “In the early hours of September 18, a group of heavily armed terrorists targeted the rear administrative base of a unit at Uri, Kashmir.
“In the counter action, four terrorists have been eliminated and combing operations are in progress.
“The administrative base had a large strength of troops of units turning over after their tour of duty who were stationed in tents/temporary shelters which caught fire and resulted in heavy casualties.
“We salute the sacrifices of 17 soldiers who were martyred in the operation.”
Helicopters flew the injured soldiers from Uri to the army’s base hospital in Srinagar, about 70 km away.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Army chief General Dalbir Singh immediately prepared to fly to Uri.
In a related development, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh cancelled his visit to the US and Russia. He called a high-level meeting later on Sunday to discuss the attack.
“Keeping the situation of Jammu and Kashmir in mind and in the wake of the terror attack in Uri, I have postponed my visits to Russia and the US,” Rajnath Singh tweeted.
He said he spoken to Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
“They have apprised me of the security situation in the state,” he said.