5 soldiers killed in LoC ambush in Poonch
20 Heavily-Armed Militants Carried Out Attack: A K Antony
India Lodges Strong Protest, Summons Pak Diplomat; Our Troops Not Involved: Pakistan; Army Chief To Visit Poonch Today
SALIL RAINA / PTI
Poonch/New Delhi, Aug 6: At least five soldiers were killed and another injured when a group of heavily armed militants, allegedly backed by Pakistan army, ambushed an Indian army patrol along the Line of Control in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir early Tuesday, sources said.
Defence sources said the attack took place during the wee hours when a small team of army was patrolling from Sarva to Garang post in Poonch sector. This narrow stretch along the Line of Control has no border fencing and as such army men usually patrol the area several times a day, they said.
“As the patrolling team comprising a Non-Commissioned Officer and five personnel of other ranks were returning back to their posts, they were fired upon indiscriminately from three sides,” sources told Greater Kashmir, adding, “Five soldiers came under the direct fire while one of them, managed to take cover and escaped with minor injuries.”
The attack took place about 400 meters inside the Indian territory. A defence spokesman said the ambush was carried out by approximately 20 heavily armed militants “along with soldiers of Pakistan Army.”
Sources said the stretch of the LoC, where the attack was carried out, is highly mined and the ambush came as a surprise for the security establishment here.
The soldiers, who were killed in the attack have been identified as Prem Nath Singh, Niak Shambhu Nath, Niak mani Kundlik Karbe of 14 MLI, Sepoy Raghunanadan parsad and Vijay Kumar.
Senior superintendent of Police (SSP) Poonch, Shamsher Hussain said, “The attack was carried out at a vulnerable (unfenced LoC) sector, some 300 meters between Cheeta and Begum posts.”
This is the second biggest attack in Poonch area in a year. In January this year, beheading of a soldier had triggered a series of skirmishes along the LoC and the India-Pakistan International Border. The attack also came close to the recent operation by army along the Line of Control in north Kashmir, killing around a dozen militants.
The issue rocked the Parliament today with members in both the Houses demanding a strong response from the Government. Both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were adjourned till noon.
Making suo-motu statement in both the Houses, Defence Minister AK Antony said the attack was carried out on the Indian side of the LoC.
An Indian army patrol, comprising one Non-Commissioned Officer and five other ranks, was “ambushed on our side” of the LoC in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir, he said.
“The ambush was carried out by approximately 20 heavily-armed militants along with persons dressed in Pakistan army uniform,” he said.
“In the ensuing firefight, five Indian soldiers were martyred and one soldier was injured,” he said.
Strongly condemning the “unprovoked incident”, Antony said, “I assure the House that our army is fully ready to take all necessary steps to uphold the sanctity of LoC.”
He said the “morale of armed forces is very high” and they are capable of handling the situation.
His remarks about involvement of militants in the attack triggered angry reactions by political parties, which said it amounted to giving an “escape route” to Pakistan which already claims that its army is not responsible.
However, Antony stuck to his version, saying “my statement is based on confirmed reports received till the time I made the statement...At this stage we don't want to jump to any conclusion.”
Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley termed Antony's statement as "ambiguous" and took a dig, saying that he hoped it was a "typographical error".
Linking it to the Sharm-el-Sheikh episode of 2009 when the mention of Balochistan was found in India-Pakistan joint statement, the BJP leader said that by saying militants attacked "you are almost providing in this sentence an opportunity to Pakistan to say that they were non-state actors... It provides escape route to Pakistan, which always says not army but non-state actors" are behind such attacks.
Antony noted that the number of infiltration attempts have doubled this year in comparison to the corresponding period—January 01-August 05, 2012.
There have also been 57 ceasefire violations this year, around 80 percent more than the same period last year, he said.
The effective counter-infiltration grid on the LOC has ensured that 17 bids were foiled this year, he added.
Meanwhile, a report said Army Chief General Bikram Singh will visit the attack site tomorrow.
The Line of Control and Indo-Pak border was witnessed heightened tension during 2013 with India accusing Pakistan of repeated ceasefire violations.
Our troops not involved: Pakistan
Pakistan Tuesday denied that its troops were involved in an attack across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir that killed five Indian soldiers, saying it was committed to the ceasefire agreement of 2003.
“Pakistan rejects the allegations carried by some sections of the Indian media of an attack across the LoC in the Poonch sector in which five Indian soldiers were claimed to have been killed. These are baseless and unfounded allegations,” Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry said.
“Our military authorities have confirmed that there had been no exchange of fire that could have resulted in such an incident,” he said in a statement.
Pakistan is committed to the ceasefire agreement of 2003, which is “an important Confidence-Building Measure and should be respected in letter and spirit”, Chaudhry said.
Islamabad further called for “abiding by and strengthening existing military mechanisms to ensure that such ill-founded reports that have the potential of vitiating the atmosphere, are avoided.”
Earlier, a Pakistani military official told PTI: “No such incident has taken place on LoC as there was no violation of the ceasefire by our troops.”
India and Pakistan put in place a ceasefire along the frontiers in Jammu and Kashmir, including the LoC, in late 2003.
The bilateral dialogue process was put on hold after an Indian soldier was allegedly beheaded and the mutilated body of another soldier was found following an attack by Pakistani troops in Poonch sector on January
India summons Pak Dy High Commissioner
India summoned Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner and lodged a strong protest over killing of five Indian soldiers along the Line of Control in the Poonch sector in Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner Mansoor Ahmed Khan was summoned by Joint Secretary in Ministry of External Affairs Rudrendra Tandon in South Block and delivered a strong diplomatic message, sources said.
The killing came just as India and Pakistan were preparing to resume peace talks stalled since January when tensions rose following the beheading of two Indian soldiers along the LoC.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif are slated to meet in New York next month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.
Army Chief to visit Poonch today
In the wake of the killing of five soldiers along the Line of Control, Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh will Wednesday visit Poonch to review the security situation there.
Director General of Military Operations Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia will speak to his counterpart in Pakistan Maj Gen Asfaque Nadeem to raise the issue of killing of the five Indian soldiers in the cross-LoC attack in Jammu and Kashmir, army officials said here.
After the incident, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talked to Defence Minister A K Antony. The Army Chief had briefed the Defence Minister early in the morning about the incident, they said.
Sources said the Prime Minister was kept informed about the developments since the morning. He spoke to Antony and asked him to ensure that the families of the victims are taken care of.
The Army Chief is scheduled to visit the Division headquarters in Rajouri and the 93 Brigade headquarters to take stock of the security situation there. He is also expected to meet the Commanding Officer and troops of the units whose troops were killed in Pakistan's Border Area Team action, army officials said.
Of the five troops killed today, four belonged to the 21 Bihar regiment while one of them is from the 14 Maratha Light Infantry battalion.
The 21 Bihar unit is on its way out of the area after a tenure of over two years and the 14 Maratha Light Infantry battalion will take over the position from it, officials said.
Army officials said the DGMO will raise with his Pakistani counterpart the issue of killing of Indian soldiers. The DGMOs of the two sides regularly talk to each other on every Wednesday.
Meanwhile amid tension triggered by the killing of five Indian soldiers, patrolling and security have been heightened along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 6 Aug 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 6 Aug 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 7 Aug 2013 00:00:00 IST
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