- 17 Indian soldiers killed, 20 injured as heavily armed fighters storm Indian army headquarters in Uri
- Pakistan asks India to share any actionable intelligence after Ranjnath Singh spews venom
- Indian home minister blames terms Pakistan a ‘terrorist state’
Heavily-armed Kashmiri fighters stormed an Indian army base near the de facto border with Pakistan on Sunday, killing 17 soldiers and wounding 20 others in the most deadly such attack in Occupied Kashmir in recent years.
Four of the attackers were also killed in the gunbattle with security forces after they had penetrated the base, a spokesperson for the Indian army said in a statement, adding that the encounter resulted in “heavy casualties”.
Hours after the attack, India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh, in an anti-Pakistan rant, held the neighbouring country responsible for the raid, and termed it a ‘terrorist state’. Pakistan, on the other hand, vehemently denied “pre-mature” Indian allegations, and asked it to share any credible information it had about the attack.
The facility – the headquarters of 12th Army Brigade in Uri area of Baramulla district some 70 kilometres from state capital Srinagar – has been raided amid heightened tension in the Occupied Valley which has faced more than two months of protests by Kashmiri people for their right to self-determination following the killing of a popular separatist field commander, Burhan Wani.
Till date at least 104 civilians have been killed and thousands injured in street clashes with Indian security forces who have been criticised by human rights groups for using excessive force, including shotguns that fire pellets that have blinded scores of people.
According to an Indian army official, up to six intruders, believed to be members of a “suicide squad”, entered the military installation at about 4:00 am (local time) in a commando style and opened fire on rear administrative echelons of the army.
As soon as gunfire was heard, Indian army’s special unit was airdropped at the site to tackle the militants armed with grenades and automatic rifles.
Media reports said that toll could rise as the encounter was continuing, with the army deploying helicopters to evacuate 20 soldiers who had been injured in the pre-dawn attack.
The Defence Ministry in New Delhi however put the number of wounded around 35. Some six injured soldiers were airlifted to the army’s base hospital in Srinagar, reports added.
Soldiers are now searching the base, 100 kilometres west of the region’s main city of Srinagar, for any more suspected militants, the army’s statement said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to punish those responsible for the “despicable” and “cowardly” attack.
“We strongly condemn the cowardly terror attack in Uri. I assure the nation that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished,” Modi said in a tweet following the raid.
DGMOs establish hotline contact:
Following the attack, a hotline contact was established between the directors general of military operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.
Pakistan vehemently denied Indian allegations over the attack on army base in Indian-held Kashmir, with the Pakistani DGMO asking his counterpart to share any actionable intelligence.
The contact took place upon India’s request around afternoon, the ISPR said, adding that the situation at the LoC was discussed during the telephonic conversation.
Pakistan remained firm upon its stance and rejected India’s “baseless” and “premature” allegations.
The Pakistani DGMO reiterated that Pakistan was determined not to let its territory be used against any country and told his counterpart that there were watertight arrangements in place around the Working Boundary and LoC, the statement added.
Indian authorities, media start blame game:
It was shortly after the attack that the Indian authorities along with their media outlets started the blame game against Pakistan.
Indian officials did not hold back while putting the unsubstantiated blame on Pakistan, with Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh blaming Pakistan for the attack and directly terming it a ‘terrorist state’.
“Pakistan is a terrorist state and should be identified and isolated as such,” Rajnath tweeted.
He was holding a high-level security meeting in New Delhi, according to reports, after earlier saying he was cancelling his planned trips to Russia and the United States.
Rajnath’s vitriol comes as Pakistan and India gear up for a showdown at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session starting Monday.
The Indian government has been coming under growing pressure over the level of casualties during the protests and over the security forces’ use of shotguns loaded with pellets.
Thousands of angry demonstrators defied a curfew on Saturday in IHK to attend the funeral of a schoolboy whose body was found riddled with pellets, sparking fresh clashes with security forces.
Soldiers have been deployed in Kashmir for decades and currently number around 500,000. Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting.
Pakistan earlier this month urged the Indian government to listen to the international community and end bloodshed in held-Kashmir and asked the United Nations to send a fact-finding mission to the occupied Valley in order to investigate human right abuses.
India has slammed Pakistan’s interference in Kashmir, terming it an ‘internal matter’. Pakistan maintains the issue can only be resolved through dialogue and implementation of UN resolutions on Kashmir.
Pakistan is preparing to “forcefully” highlight the situation in Indian occupied Kashmir at the UN session, whereas India intends to counter Pakistan’s stance by raising the Balochistan issue, arguing that the Baloch are also seeking independence from Pakistan and deserve international support.
India is also backing Baloch activists to hold a demonstration outside the UN headquarters during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech.
Both Pakistan and India are trying to persuade the US to support their respective positions. The US, however, appears to have decided not to take sides.
In a speech on India’s Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation said, in a broadside against Pakistan, that the people of Balochistan, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir had thanked him.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz reacted to Modi’s speech, saying the Indian PM was trying to divert global attention from the tragedy in India-held Kashmir, adding that Modi’s comments only proved Pakistan’s contention that India, through the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), had been fomenting terrorism in Balochistan.