SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Indian army commandos killed three militants holed up in an officers’ mess and another person was shot dead during a six-hour gunbattle at an army base in the disputed Kashmir region on Wednesday, a senior army officer said.
The gunmen cut a perimeter fence and penetrated the battalion headquarters in Tangdhar in northern Kashmir, the Himalayan region at the heart of a longstanding dispute between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. “It is seems to be a well planned attack,” said the army officer, who asked not to be identified because he is not authorised to speak on the record.
Bodies of the three gunmen and of one unidentified individual, believed to have worked on the base, were recovered, the officer added.He said the attackers armed with AK-47s had taken up positions in the officers’ mess and blown up a kerosene tank, wounding one person.
India accuses Pakistan of training and arming militants, and infiltrating them across the de facto border, called the Line of Control, dividing Kashmir. Pakistan denies those allegations.
The South Asian rivals fought two of their three wars since independence in 1947 over Muslim-majority Kashmir, which they both claim in full but rule in part.
The gunmen entered the army camp at around 6 a.m. (0030 GMT) the firing started about an hour later, the officer said.The use of small teams of militants willing to fight to the death became signature tactic of some Pakistan-based groups, like Lashkar-e-Taiba, during the insurgency in Indian-ruled Kashmir that began a quarter of a century ago. In a similar attack in July in India’s state of Punjab, near the border with Pakistan, a group of gunmen dressed in military fatigues took over a police station. The attackers were all killed in a 12-hour gunbattle.
The seventh anniversary of the Mumbai attack, which killed 166 people and was blamed by India on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, falls on Thursday. The recent attack by Islamist militants in Paris has heightened concerns over the vulnerability of Indian cities to such attacks. Militant violence remains a problem in Kashmir although levels of violence are down from the levels of the 1990s when an armed revolt against Indian rule erupted.
In the first 10 months of this year 79 people were killed in attacks, a similar number to those who died in 2014 and 2013, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, which tracks militant violence.
Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari; Writing by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Simon Cameron-Moore