| SRINAGAR, India/NEW DELHI, Sept 19
SRINAGAR, India/NEW DELHI, Sept 19 India stepped
up patrols along its de facto border with Pakistan on Monday
after gunmen killed 17 soldiers at a nearby army base, as Prime
Minister Narendra Modi's administration weighed its response to
an attack India blames on its neighbour.
The assault, in which four commando-style gunmen burst into
the brigade headquarters in Uri at 5.30 a.m. (midnight GMT) on
Sunday, was among the deadliest in Kashmir and has sharply
ratcheted up tension between the nuclear-armed arch-rivals.
Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday called Pakistan
"a terrorist state" and Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh said
troops were "ready to give a befitting response", without
elaborating. Pakistan denies any role and accused India of
apportioning blame before it had properly investigated.
Kashmir, divided between India and Pakistan since 1947, is
at the heart of the rivalry between the neighbours. Two of their
three wars since independence from Britain have been fought over
Indian troops searched three ravines that cut across the
border in mountainous terrain near Uri, which a senior army
official said they believe the militants sneaked across.
Reinforcements were also sent to patrol one of the world's
most heavily militaries frontiers, where Indian and Pakistani
forces in places stand eyeball to eyeball and sometimes exchange
fire, the army official said.
Modi is expected to meet senior leaders from his party at a
cabinet meeting in New Delhi at noon on Monday, where
politicians are set to discuss how to respond as well as the
"Our first priority is to fortify every defence base and it
is shocking that one of our strategic locations was hit," a
senior aide to Modi told Reuters. "It has exposed the flaws and
the weakness of our security infrastructure and an immediate
overhaul is the first job on hand."
As well as the 17 confirmed dead, army officials said three
of the critically wounded had been flown to an army hospital in
New Delhi. Most of dead and wounded suffered severe burns after
their army tents and temporary shelters caught fire from
incendiary ammunition while they were sleeping.
The assault came as India's portion of Kashmir has been
under a major security lockdown during more than two months of
protests sparked by the July 8 killing of a commander of another
Pakistan-based separatist group.
India has long blamed Pakistan for a role in the 27-year
long insurgency against its rule in its only Muslim-majority
India's General Ranbir Singh said Sunday's assault bore the
hallmarks of Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Pakistan denies sending fighters into Indian-administered
"Pakistan categorically rejects the baseless and
irresponsible accusations being levelled by senior officials in
Prime Minister Modi's government," the foreign affairs adviser
to Pakistan's prime minister said in a statement late on Sunday.
Recent unrest in Kashmir has been led largely by local young
men angry at the heavy military presence in the region.
Eighty-two civilians have been killed and more than 7,000
wounded as a daily curfew paralyses life. Two policemen have
also been killed in clashes.
Pakistan has called on the United Nations and the
international community to investigate atrocities it alleges
have been committed by Indian security forces in Kashmir.
The UN is preparing to hold its annual general assembly in
New York, where Kashmir is likely to be on the agenda.
(Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari and Rupam Jain; Writing by Tommy
Wilkes; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Nick Macfie)