CRPF jawan killed in gunfight with LeT militants in Srinagar
New Delhi: An Indian soldier was killed in gunfire on Monday during an attempt by two militants from the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) to break through the perimeter (boundary wall) of a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp in Srinagar’s Karan Nagar area in Jammu and Kashmir.
The attack came just two days after a group of LeT militants attacked the Indian Army’s Sunjwan camp in Jammu in which five soldiers, a civilian and all four terrorists were killed.
The CRPF confirmed that one soldier had been killed in the exchange of fire, adding the attempt had been thwarted by the sentry who opened fire at the militants. At the time of going to press, the encounter was still on.
The CRPF camp is located close to a police control room as well as the Maharaja Shri Hari Singh Hospital from where LeT militant Naveed Jutt escaped on 6 February.
“The militants could not breach our walls but they went and immediately hid in a civilian’s house in the adjacent areas. We cordoned off the area and an encounter was launched with the special operations group (SOG) of the state police, in which one CRPF jawan lost his life,” said a CRPF spokesperson in New Delhi.
On Monday, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted amid escalating attacks that “dialogue is necessary with Pakistan to end bloodshed. We have to talk because war is not an option.”
While this is the second attack on a defence facility in a civilian zone in the last two days, intelligence units predicted a spike in such assaults, saying family stations and civilian areas offered plenty of scope for reconnaissance activity for militants, coupled with help from locals.
“Pakistan and invariably the terrorists attack such military establishments for two reasons. First, for them there is no honour in killing civilians and they don’t define terrorism as attacking military bases. Second, in a peace station (family and civilian areas) there is a free movement of civilians in nearby areas. Militants have ample opportunity to observe movements in these cantonments and then strike at an opportune moment,” said an intelligence official, asking not to named.
The official also stated that even though “by design or by default,” the families and civilian population are targeted, the actual danger lay in the “first few moments of contact” that the terrorists make—whether with the families or the armed guards.
Defence experts said the layout and location of such camps made them susceptible to such attacks. While camps between Akhnoor in Jammu and Pathankot in Punjab were much larger and more open, the Samba cantonment in Jammu is located on both sides of a highway.
With these camps also housing families of officers and jawans, armed vigil was lower than in field bases (non-family stations).
“In camps, which are family stations, there is a high degree of vulnerability where families can be targeted. Here, except for the quarter guard and the QRT (quick response team) nobody is armed and all weapons and guns are kept in the armouries. Soldiers also have administrative duties here and it is simpler to catch them off-guard,” said H.S. Panag, a former Indian Army official and defence expert.
In February 2016, following a terrorist attack on the Indian Air Force station in Pathankot, the former vice chief of army Lt. Gen Philip Campose was asked to investigate the issue of perimeter security of defence installations. The report—which remains classified—was submitted to the ministry of defence in May 2016.
“By 2015, these militants began to go southwards from Kashmir towards Pathankot and Nagrota. One recommendation was made to identify weak points in such camps improve physical perimeter security, which the defence ministry has issued orders to do. However, the second recommendation of improving technological security is met with challenges of release of funds as well as logistical support in such camps,” said an official familiar with the developments.
The official added that even with plans afloat to install electrical fences along with the Border Security Force’s (BSF) plans to launch the laser wall kavach, or laser fencing, to secure the international border, implementation “was a huge challenge, with electricity supply being intermittent as well as climatic conditions and the foliage also playing spoiler.”
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