Lt Col, 4 Cops, 3 Fidayeens Among 13 Killed In Twin Terror Attacks

Lt Col, 4 Cops, 3 Fidayeens Among 13 Killed In Twin Terror Attacks

26 September 2013
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: In a major terror attack originating from Pakistan, three fidayeens in Army dresses carried out twin strikes at Hiranagar police station in Kathua district and 16 Cavalry unit of Army at Mehsar, about two kilometers from Samba killing 10 persons including four Army soldiers, one of them a Lieutenant Colonel, four police personnel and two civilians before being eliminated by the troops after about 11 hours long gun battle in which six persons including two Army jawans, three police personnel and a civilian were also injured. The attack, which was being described as a serious security lapse on part of different agencies engaged in anti-infiltration and anti-militancy measures, comes close on the heels of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s announcement that he would meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly on September 29. Official sources and eye-witnesses told the Excelsior that three fidayeens after infiltrating from the International Border (IB) in Hiranagar sector in wee hours of this morning first hijacked a load carrier at village Hariya Chak, located extreme on the border, carried out attack at Hiranagar police station killing six persons, again hijacked a truck seized at police station and drove to Mehsar Army camp traveling nearly 20 kilometers on Jammu-Pathankote National Highway and about 15 kilometers on interior roads of Hiranagar without being intercepted anywhere by the police, displaying preparedness of the police personnel to deal with terror attacks as reports had constantly been pouring in about impending infiltration of militants from across the LoC and IB in Jammu sector. Even after killing four police personnel and injuring three others inside Hiranagar police station, which was located just eight kilometers from the IB, the militants escaped without any interception or major challenge from the cops and moved towards the National Highway. While intruding inside the Indian territory from the IB, the militants hadn’t been intercepted anywhere as no incident of firing was reported on the border last night or even for the past one week. This was rare incident as two top ranking officials of a Unit were killed or injured in the fidayeen attack. While Second-in-Command of the Unit Lt Col Bikramjeet Singh was killed, Commanding Officer of the Unit Col Avin Adhiya was injured. Notwithstanding the fact that Ape load carrier 2430 JK08B operator Roshan Lal of Hariya Chak, who has been seriously injured in the attack, very tactfully covered a long distance of at least 15 kilometers instead of just eight kilometers from IB to Hiranagar police station and even took the auto to National Highway towards Rajbagh, to ensure that it was intercepted by police and the fidayeens get caught, nothing happened as there were no police personnel anywhere on the road or the National Highway. While first attack by the militants at Hiranagar police station took place at 6.50 am, the second attack at 16 Cavalry Unity of the Army was reported around 7.45 am. The major fidayeen attack carried out by the militants after sneaking in from across the border took place after five years, the last such attack being executed on August 28, 2008 at Chinore after the ultras had entered from Kanachak border in which 10 persons including the two militants were killed. In the same year on May 11, 2008, the militants had struck at Samba after infiltrating from the IB. A total of eight persons including Excelsior Chief Photographer Ashok Sodhi were killed in the attack. This was second attack in Hiranagar in past 11 years. In October, 2002, two fidayeens had reached the National Highway after infiltration and killed DySP Jagtar Singh and six civilians before being eliminated by the troops after three days long operation. In 2010, two militants had intruded from the same route but skipped to Punjab, where they were killed. After day-long operation in which Army used the helicopters and commandos, a final assault was launched on three fidayeens, who were zeroed-in near Officers’ Mess and gunned down at 4.30 pm. The Army sanitized the area to ensure that there was no other militant, though the auto and truck drivers had confirmed presence of three militants only before declaring the operation over at 5 pm. The Army had to blast a major portion of the Officers’ Mess to kill two militants, where they had taken shelter. While two militants were killed within few hours of the operation, the third one kept on fighting till late in the afternoon and was gunned down around 4 pm. The Army declared the operation as complete at 4.30 pm. All three slain militants were Pakistanis, sources said, adding the attack was clearly aimed at sabotaging the Prime Ministerial level talks between India and Pakistan, which were scheduled on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly on September 29. Only yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had announced that he would discuss all issues during the talks. The Army lost Lt Col Bikramjeet Singh, 39, Second-in-Command of the Unit and a resident of Sector 18A Chandigarh in the firing along with three other soldiers including Sepoy Kiran Kumar Reddy 29, a resident of Sudhukurli Pilla, in district Chitoor, Andhra Pradesh, Sepoy Meesala Srnivas, 29 of village Mendada, district Vizilangiri, Andhra Pradesh and Havaldar Indra Singh, 38 a resident of Ward No. 17, Jhunjhun, Rajasthan. Injured Army personnel including Commanding Officer of the Unit Col Avin Adhiya, who hailed from village Kakotupran Girijapte, district Kodagu, Karnataka and Sepoy Gaya Singh R-o Deeyanoor Kuklam, district Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu. Both of them have been admitted in Military Hospital, Chandigarh. Army recovered three AK-47 rifles, one 9mm pistol, eight grenades, 320 magazines, IEDs in four bottles, dry fruits, one UBGL Launchers with eight grenades, one compass and some medicines from the possession of fidayeens. Bodies of all three fidayeens have been recovered. They were believed to be Pakistanis but their identity hasn’t been established so far. All three were in the age group of 20 to 25 and were battled hardened, which indicated that they had undergone rigorous training before being pushed into this side for the attack. Four police personnel killed in the firing at Hiranagar police station were ASI Rattan Singh, Duty Officer, a resident of Budhi Merth, Selection Grade Constable Pardeep Singh Jamwal, a resident of Birpur, Constable Shiv Kumar of Kutta and Special Police Officer, Mukesh Kumar of Hiranagar. Two civilians gunned down by the militants included Feroz Ahmad of Kemoh, Anantnag, conductor of the truck and Suresh Kumar, a shopkeeper near Hiranagar police station and a resident of Ward No. 2, Hiranagar. Injured police personnel and civilians at Hiranagar included ASI Gangu Ram, Constable Rattan Chand, SPO Sohan Singh and a civilian auto driver Roshan Lal of Hariya Chak. All of them have been hospitalised. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, Housing Minister Raman Bhalla, Home Secretary Suresh Kumar, Director General of Police (DGP) Ashok Prasad and IGP CID B Srinivas air dashed here this afternoon to review the situation and pay tributes to martyr soldiers and civilians. Accompanied by NC leader and MLC Devender Singh Rana, they visited the District Police Lines (DPL) and laid wreaths on the bodies of four police martyrs. They lauded the police role in fighting militancy. Omar, Tara Chand, Mr Bhalla, Mr Rana and Mr Prasad visited Hiranagar police station and inquired the situation arising out of the fidayeen attack. They were at the police station for 20 minutes during which they inquired full details of the incident. Later, they visited the residence of Suresh Kumar, a shopkeeper, killed by the militants outside the police station, at Ward No. 2, Hiranagar and extended condolences to the family. They assured full support to the family. Omar also visited Samba Army camp and paid tributes to martyr soldiers. He interacted with Army officers and conveyed condolences to them. He also paid a visit to Government Medical College Jammu and inquired condition of the injured police officials and civilians admitted there. The Chief Minister held a high level review of the situation with police and civil administration in the wake of two terror attacks today. Omar would also attend wreath laying ceremony of Army jawans at Technical Airport, Jammu at 9 am along with Northern Command chief Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra, GOC 16 Corps Lt Gen DS Hooda and Lt Gen Yol Cantt Rajan Bakshi after which bodies of the Army soldiers would be flown to their native towns with full military honours. Official sources and eye-witnesses told the Excelsior that three fidayeens, believed to be the cadre of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) outfit though a lesser known militant outfit 'Alshoda Brigade’ has claimed responsibility for the attack, appeared at village Hariya Chak, extreme on the International Border at about 5.40 am and hijacked a load carrier-an Ape three wheeler bearing registration No. 2430 JK08B, which had been standing there to load vegetables from the village to the market. The fidayeens hijacked the three wheeler at gun point and asked driver Roshan Singh, a local of Hariya Chak, to drive them to Samba Army camp. Sensing that the persons in Army uniform were militants, Roshan displayed extreme alertness and took a long route from Hariya Chak to Khanpur-Karandi and reached Rajbagh on Jammu-Pathankote National Highway instead of driving the militants straight to Hiranagar. Roshan Singh, who had received two gun shots in legs and one on shoulder, took a long route including the National Highway anticipating that they would be intercepted somewhere by police or any other security agency but this didn’t happen due to complete laxity on the part of police. As the driver told militants that Samba was far away and it wouldn’t be possible for him to take them there, the fidayeen asked him to taken them to CRPF camp or Hiranagar police station. The driver diverted the auto from Highway towards Hiranagar. Sources said the driver stopped the auto 150 meters ahead of the police station. Earlier, the militants refused to board off at CRPF camp as they found the para-military troops alert there. They also refused to get down at Old Hiranagar police station, where they were taken by the auto driver. Two fidayeen had been lying down in the backside of the load carrier under the cover of a plastic sheet while the third one was sitting. The fidayeen boarded off the auto and shot dead shopkeeper Suresh Kumar, who was opening his general store adjacent to the police station by firing a burst from an AK rifle on him anticipating that he had identified them. They also fired three shots towards auto driver Roshan Singh, causing him two wounds in legs and one in shoulder. The militants then fired at Hiranagar police station Sentry Shiv Kumar, who reportedly retaliated but was killed in the process. Sources said the Sentry was the only police official, who retaliated. A police officer also confirmed that excepting Sentry Shiv Kumar, none of the police personnel retaliated the firing, which well explained police preparedness for such attacks especially in the border areas. The militants then intruded in the barrack of police station and fired at Duty Officer ASI Rattan Singh, killing him on spot. They also killed Selection Grade Constable Pradeep Singh and SPO Mukesh Singh inside the barrack. The fidayeens then moved towards Family Quarters of the police station and fired at ASI Gangu Ram, who was running to safety after hearing sound of gun shots after putting clothes on the wire after a bath. Constable Rattan Chand was fired upon while coming out of the bathroom along with SPO Sohan Singh. SHO Hiranagar Inspector Raj Kumar Padha survived without any injuries. Police was tightlipped whether Inspector Padha was at the police station at the time of attack or not. Sources said the fidayeens were in a position to cause more casualties at Hiranagar and at one point of time had also asked about Hiranagar jail but they seems to be in a hurry to move towards an Army camp. Militants also damaged a religious place inside the police station by straying bullets on it. A truck No. JK03 7810, which had been seized only last night by Hiranagar police for shortage of documents, was hijacked by the fidayeens, who asked the conductor Feroz Ahmad of Anantnag to drive the vehicle towards Samba. Displaying extra ordinary courage, the conductor outrightly refused to follow the militant dictates. However, the militants shot him dead and asked the driver to take the vehicle towards Samba. The driver Mohammad Arif son of Mohammad Maqbool, a resident of Khanpur, Baramulla, obliged. There were two versions on the fidayeens travel up to Samba. Initially, the truck driver told police that while reaching close to Samba, he refused to drive the vehicles as he had heard the militants talking about an attack on Army camp. He said he was thrown of the truck by the fidayeens. Some of the police officials said that the fidayeen used a matador to reach Mehsar Army camp but no such vehicle was traced. Another report said one of the militants himself drove the truck up to the camp. Late tonight, police said the driver had initially lied and it was he who had taken the fidayeens right up to the camp and drove the vehicle back to Hiranagar police station and informed the officials about militants’ movement. The militants traveled a distance of nearly 22 kilometers from Hiranagar to Mehsar Army camp in Samba including about 20 kilometers on Jammu-Pathankot National Highway unchecked by police or any other security agency. In the process, they covered jurisdiction of two districts including Kathua and Samba. The militants fired at the Sentry on duty at main gate of 16 Cavalry Unit at Mehsar, about two kilometers from Samba. They lobbed grenades and fired indiscriminately with automatic weapons like AKs to gain entry inside the camp. Two fidayeens entered from the main gate and the third one from another route. They entered the camp around 7.45 am and directly fired towards the Officers’ Mess killing Lt Col Bikramjeet Singh on spot and seriously injuring Col and Commanding Officer of the Unit Avin Adhiya, who were taking stroll outside the Mess. The alert Army jawans immediately retaliated. The injured and dead were evacuated from the spot. Exchange of firing between the two sides continued till 4 pm. Sources said two militants were killed in heavy retaliation by the Army this afternoon while the last fidayeen was gunned down at 4 pm. Injured Army personnel were referred to the Military Hospital, Chandigarh. Army pressed helicopters into service to trace exact location of the militants. Sources said the aerial sorties helped in tracing the militants around the Officers’ Mess, where they had taken shelter. The Army also pressed its Commandos to eliminate the fidayeens. They added that killing of the fidayeens was delayed as the Army didn’t want its more casualties as it had already lost a senior officer and three soldiers while another jawan was injured. IGP Jammu Zone, Rajesh Kumar and DIG Jammu-Kathua range Shakeel Ahmad Beig camped at Samba along with SSP Samba Israr Khan. SSP Kathua Mohan Lal and SDPO Border Mohan Lal Kaith were camping at Hiranagar. The IGP and the DIG monitored the operation till it was over. They ordered suspension of traffic on Jammu-Pathankote National Highway to ensure that no vehicle was trapped in the firing. The vehicular movement was restored on the Highway at about 6 pm after killing of all three fidayeen was confirmed and the area was sanitized. Police also mobilized its bullet proof vehicles to evacuate children from two schools near the Army camp during the fidayeen attack. Police helped the students reach their houses. Rajesh Kumar told reporters in Samba that Sentry on duty at Hiranagar police station emptied his full magazine on the militants but they survived. He said all three militants appeared to be part of fresh infiltrated group. Sources said all three fidayeen were heavily equipped with assault rifles, grenades and UBGL launchers, which they used at Hiranagar police station and Mehsar Army camp. While they had free access in Hiranagar police station, they found it very difficult to gain entry in the Army camp but ultimately managed it by lobbying series of grenades and resorting to firing. There was no word from the BSF on infiltration of the militants but sources said they appeared to have entered into this side from the IB near Hariya Chak, where they made their first appearance. The dirty sports shoes of slain militants also pointed out that they were part of fresh infiltrate group. Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s statement that the militants had entered into this side from across the border also confirmed that the militants were fresh infiltrated group. Reports had been pouring in for past quite some time that a large number of militants were camping across the IB and the LoC and they were determined to infiltrate to cause terror attack. Though lesser known 'Alshoda Brigade’ has claimed responsibility for twin terror attacks, sources said the fidayeen attack was orchestrated by the LeT outfit, which was opposed to Indo-Pak dialogue. The LeT had the capability of carrying out such attacks, sources said, adding the attack appeared to be handiwork of the LeT outfit. Sources pointed out that Army dresses worn by the militants was one of the reasons behind delayed retaliation on the fidayeen by police and Army. The local people in Hiranagar were of the view that the police authorities should constitute more Village Defence Committees (VDCs) especially along the border areas to keep vigil on the militants. Meanwhile, four police personnel and a civilian of Hiranagar killed in the fidayeen attack were cremated at their native towns while the body of truck conductor Feroz Ahmad was sent to Anantnag after post-mortem. The bodies of police personnel were cremated with full honours. A pall of gloom descended at Hiranagar, Kutta, Buddhi and Birpur from where the police personnel and the civilian hailed as the news of their killings spread. The people of their village and surrounding areas came out in large number to join the cremation.