17 sol­diers killed in at­tack at In­dian army base in Kash­mir

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Sus­pected rebels us­ing guns and grenades sneaked into a cru­cial army base in In­dian-con­trolled Kash­mir early Sun­day and killed at least 17 sol­diers in the dead­li­est at­tack on a mil­i­tary base in the dis­puted Hi­malayan re­gion in re­cent years, the army said.

Four rebels were killed as the sol­diers re­turned gun­fire to the at­tack­ers in the sur­prise as­sault be­fore dawn on the base close to the highly mil­i­ta­rized Line of Con­trol di­vid­ing Kash­mir be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan.

Loud ex­plo­sions were heard and sev­eral bar­racks caught fire in the ini­tial hours of the at­tack. Af­ter­ward mil­i­tary he­li­copters hov­ered over the base as the army con­ducted what they de­scribed as “mop­ping up” op­er­a­tions. The ca­su­al­ties were high be­cause a large num­ber of sol­diers were turn­ing over the base to new units and were sta­tioned in tents and tem­po­rary shel­ters that caught fire in the at­tack, the army said in a state­ment. The base in the town of Uri, west of Kash­mir’s main city of Srinagar, houses the In­dian army’s brigade head­quar­ters in the re­gion along the de facto bor­der.

Sev­eral wounded sol­diers have been air­lifted to the army’s main hospi­tal in Srinagar. It wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear if the four dead rebels were the only at­tack­ers.

In­dia’s Home Min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh has called an emer­gency meet­ing of top de­fense of­fi­cials

later Sun­day.

The at­tack came as Kash­mir is in mid­dle of the largest an­tiIn­dia protests in re­cent years since the killing July 8 of a pop­u­lar rebel com­man­der by In­dian troops. A sweep­ing mil­i­tary crack­down and near-con­stant cur­few have fol­lowed.

Pro­test­ers throw­ing rocks have clashed with troops fir­ing live am­mu­ni­tion and shotgun pel­lets, and more than 80 peo­ple have been killed.

Kash­mir is claimed by both In­dia and Pak­istan in its en­tirety, and most peo­ple in the In­dian-con­trolled por­tion fa­vor in­de­pen­dence or a merger with Pak­istan. A mil­i­tant up­ris­ing and sub­se­quent army crack­down since 1989 have killed more than 68,000 peo­ple.

In­dia ac­cuses Pak­istan of train­ing the mil­i­tants in its ter­ri­tory then help­ing them to in­fil­trate into the In­dian side. Is­lam­abad de­nies the charge, say­ing it only gives po­lit­i­cal and diplo­matic sup­port to the rebels.

Dur­ing the re­cent vi­o­lence, In­dia’s mil­i­tary has had to halt its op­er­a­tions against mil­i­tants in towns and vil­lages be­cause Kash­miri civil­ians have fiercely thwarted their op­er­a­tions by hurl­ing rocks at the troops try­ing to go af­ter the rebels in neigh­bor­hoods. How­ever, sev­eral sus­pected mil­i­tants have been killed along the de facto bor­der.

Last week, four mil­i­tants were killed in fight­ing af­ter po­lice and sol­diers in­ter­cepted them be­fore they at­tacked a mil­i­tary base in Poonch town, close to the Line of Con­trol. A po­lice­man was also killed in the two-day gun­bat­tle.

The last ma­jor at­tack on an In­dian mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tion was in Jan­uary when six gun­men en­tered an air force base in the town of Pathankot in the state of Pun­jab. The rebels man­aged to par­a­lyze the mas­sive base for nearly four days, killing seven sol­diers. That base also is close to In­dia’s bor­der with archri­val Pak­istan.

In De­cem­ber 2014, eight army sol­diers and three po­lice­men were killed when mil­i­tants stormed an ar­tillery base in Kash­mir’s Uri re­gion. Six rebels were killed in the fierce fight­ing.

A wan­ing full moon rises be­hind a statue of a Kansa In­dian on top of the Kansas State­house on Saturda in Topeka, Kansas Pho­to­graph: AP

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