Inputs suggest foreign handlers controlled JeM terrorists: Sitharaman

JAMMU: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said today that intelligence inputs suggested that terrorists who attacked the Sunjuwan Military Camp here were controlled by handlers from across the border.

Three terrorists were killed even as the initial information was about four of them, she said adding that the fourth may have acted as a guide. There was a possibility that the intruders benefited from local support, she added.

The attack by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists, sponsored by Pakistan based Azhar Masood, resulted in the death of six people including five soldiers, she told reporters.

The counter terrorist operation at the military camp was called off this morning but sanitisation operations were still on, she added.

The defence minister said the JeM module which conducted the attack may have infiltrated sometime back and possibly enjoyed local support.

"The counter terrorist operation in Sunjuwan Military camp was called off at 1030 hours today. However, sanitisation operations are still on," she told reporters here.

She said the terrorists, sponsored by Azhar Masood in Pakistan, chose to attack a military station which houses both troops and their families.

The cantonment is located on the outskirts of Jammu, approximately 30 km from the international boundary in a semi-urbanised environment with a densely populated civilian locality, she said.

"The demography of the cantonment and adjoining areas indicate the possibility of local support to the terrorists and an alert had been sounded on the likelihood of an attack by the terrorists around this period," she said.

The defence minister said that quick reaction teams (QRTs) were deployed in vulnerable areas. It was assessed that Pak-Sponsored terrorists may target softer elements, hence, QRTs were also positioned at Sunjuwan family quarters, she said.

Sitharaman said the intrusions of the terrorists was promptly detected by the sentry and challenged by a nearby QRT leading to the brief exchange of fire.

"This immediate action forced terrorists to split into individual positions and prevented a coordinated strike. The scattered terrorists reached the family quarters and occupied some of the blocks," she said.

They were isolated, and since the terrorists were dressed in battle fatigues, and had an appearance similar to to their possible victims, the operation had to be done "deliberately slow" to avoid collateral damages, she said.

"The operation entailed the deliberate search of 26 blocks and safe evacuation of families from 189 flats which was time consuming and a challenging task , she said.

This was successfully achieved with no fatal casualties to our troops.

"Six fatal casualties, including a civilian, were caused by the terrorists due to their firing on unarmed service personnel and their dependents during the initial seizing of the residential quarters in an attempt to gain forceful entry into the family quarters," she said.

The defence minister said three terrorists were eliminated although there was information of four terrorists in the area.

It is likely that the fourth terrorist was a guide and may not have entered the premises, she added.

"Our intelligence inputs indicate that these terrorists were being controlled by their handlers from across the border," she said.

Sitharaman she said the evidence was being scrutinised by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which shall soon furnish a detailed report.

In the end, I wish to express my deepest condolences on the loss of lives of our brave soldiers and their families during the dastardly attack on our unarmed soldiers and assure our nation that their sacrifice would not go in vain, she said.

"I compliment the valour of our brave soldiers who carried out this operation with precision and professionalism.

We will continue to thwart any attempt by Pakistan sponsored terrorists to cause violence in our country," she said.

Earlier in the day, Sitharaman visited those injured in the terror strike at a Military hospital here. The defence minister then met Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. Sitharaman was briefed on the security situation in the wake of the Sunjuwan terror attack, officials said.

 

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PTI