Uri attack: Army says target was to hit civilian points to disrupt polls
Days after major attacks by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir, Lieutenant General Subrata Saha on Sunday said that the operation was carried by Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militants.
Srinagar: Army on Sunday said the militants' group, which carried out the attack on its Uri camp, was looking to hit civilian targets in order to create fear ahead of the third phase polling in the state.
"(Either side of) the road between Baramulla and Uri is densely populated now. The aim must have been to come and strike at civilian targets to cause fear and disrupt the peaceful conditions ahead of the polls," General Officer Commanding of Army's 15 Corps Lt General Subrata Saha told reporters here.
Lt General Saha, however, dismissed assertions that the attacks were due to failure of the counter-infiltration grid along the Line of Control (LoC). "Had that been the case they could have attacked the civilian targets that they were looking for," he added.
Eleven security personnel including eight soldiers were killed in the pre-dawn attack on the Army camp by militants, who had infiltrated from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, before all the six assailants were shot dead.
"They (militants) came and banged against this position of ours and where in a span of barely 60 odd metres, all the six terrorists were neutralised," Lt Gen Saha said, adding "the fact they have been eliminated, the security grid has succeeded with a heavy price."
Paying tribute to the soldiers and policemen killed in the operation, Lt Gen Saha said it is their brave fight that ensured that the attack on civilian targets was avoided and "any harm to innocent civilians, particularly during this period when elections are on, was avoided".
Mohra, the scene of the deadly gunbattle on Friday, is located 10 kilometres from the Haji Peer Pass and Kamalkote, the nearest points on the Line of Control. There are several densely populated villages located between the army camp targeted by the militants and the LoC.
The army commander said there was enough evidence to show that the assailants were supported by the Pakistani establishment and that the attack and other incidents before it along the Line of Control in Kashmir were coordinated and synchronised.
"We have enough evidence that both the groups were from the Lashkar-e-Toiba. The markings on the warlike and logistic stores whether it is food, ammunition, medicines or clothes, clearly indicates that they were of Pakistani manufactured and origin. The terrorists were heavily armed and they had enough food to last several days," he said.
He said GPS recovered from the slain militants revealed that there is a staging area north of Jhelum on the other side of LoC. "One infiltration took place in Tut Mari Gali (Nowgam Sector) and one in Uri sector. I am not revealing the exact location (of the staging area) for obvious reasons," he said.
Lt Gen Saha said the incidents in Nowgam sector, in which six militants and a JCO were killed, and in Uri sector were not routine infiltration attempts.
"To say it was a routine infiltration would be improper. The sequence in which the events have happened and if you see the numbers and levels of training that has gone in to preparing these people, it is not an ordinary infiltration. It is linked to the larger events that are taking place here," he said, referring to elections and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Srinagar tomorrow.
He said the incidents that took place during the month of November indicate that there was a coordinated attempt from across the LoC to disrupt the electoral process in Kashmir.
"We had a ceasefire violation on November 8 in which a 17-year-old girl was killed and Army lost a brave soldier. After that we had three instances in which IEDs were recovered on Nov 10, 15 and 27. On Nov 23, 18 almost new AK 47 rifles and two pistols were recovered.
"Then in Tut Mari Gali on Dec 1/2, we had this operation in which six terrorists were killed and army lost a junior commissioner officer. Then we had this operation in Uri sector in which six terrorists were killed. Army lost eight of its soldiers and JKP lost three of their men," he added.
"The way in which all these incidents took place, one after the other -- ceasefire violations, IEDs being pushed in and then weapons -- it is obvious that these things cannot happen without any push and without a patron or coordination and synchronisation," the army commander said.
Lt Gen Saha said the militants killed in the two operations in the first week of the month were highly trained and capable of carrying out special operations.
"There is no doubt that they were highly trained terrorists. The TMG infiltration took place in high altitude and snowy conditions. To infiltrate in these conditions, one requires high level of physical fitness. The second operation on Mohra, they crossed Jhelum by foot, which obviously requires high level of training. I would say these terrorists were capable of special operations," he said.
He pointed out that the incidents took place to coincide with various phases of elections in the state.
"These (attacks) are timed both in time and space. On November 25, first phase of elections (took place) and the voter turnout you are well aware of. November 26/27, Arnia happened (in Jammu). At that time international events were taking place (SAARC Summit). Then December 2, the second phase of elections which was happening in Kupwara and and it is precisely from that area, Tut Mari Gali, the first operation takes place.
"Then the third phase of elections which goes into the area of Uri, Baramulla and that belt. That is where the infiltration is taking place. So if you see, it is quite well coordinated both in time and space," he added.