SRINAGAR: Militants attacked an army base near the India-held city of Jammu on Tuesday, killing at least seven security personnel and taking hostages in a bold assault in the disputed Himalayan region, officials said.
Four suspected militants were also killed in the standoff with security forces inside the command centre in India-held Jammu and Kashmir that lasted most of the day.
It was the most audacious attack on an Indian military base since September, when 19 soldiers were killed in an attack by militants.
The Indian army in a statement said four of its soldiers were killed in the initial assault after heavily armed militants wearing police uniforms stormed the base early on Tuesday, firing small arms and hurling grenades.
Three army men were killed in a rescue operation after the militants took 16 people hostage inside two buildings used by the families of the army officers.
Two women and children were among the hostages, the army claimed. “In this rescue attempt one more officer and two jawans sacrificed their lives,” it added.
Three bodies of the attackers have been recovered and operation to sanitise the complex continues, according to the statement.
One of the dead soldiers was a major while the rank of another officer remained unclear.
Earlier, a senior police officer said all four militants were killed in the counterattack by security forces.
“Now the search operation is going on inside the premises,” the officer said on condition of anonymity.
The base is one of four command centres in the disputed Himalayan region and home to over 1,000 officers.
The attack came days before a scheduled visit to India by Prime Minister’s foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz for a weekend conference on Afghanistan.
“It clearly suggests there is an attempt by certain groups to sabotage the apparent peace outreach by Pakistan’s government,” said Mohan Guruswamy, head of the Centre for Policy Alternatives think-tank in New Delhi.
Separately, Indian authorities alleged that three militants were killed in a shoot-out with security forces after crossing into the India-held region.
Tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours have escalated since the September 18 attack on an Indian army base, the deadliest in a decade.