Two Indian soldiers, militants killed in attack on Kashmir military base
Two Indian soldiers and two attackers were killed Saturday in an ongoing firefight after a group of suspected insurgents assaulted a military base in the Jammu region of Indian-administered Kashmir, officials said.
The pre-dawn attack left nine others injured, including women and children, after heavily armed militants stormed the Sunjuwan Army camp near Jammu, the second largest city in the disputed Himalayan region close to the border with Pakistan.
"The army has killed two heavily armed terrorists. One Junior Commissioned Officer and one Non-Commissioned Officer have been martyred and nine others injured, including five women and children," an army statement said late Saturday.
The statement said the operation was continuing late into the night, with an unconfirmed number of attackers still holed up inside the installation.
Arms, ammunition and other belongings seized from the slain attackers confirmed their association with Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the statement said.
Jammu's regional police chief S.D. Singh told AFP that the attack kicked off around 4:55 am (2325 GMT Friday) when guards came under a hail of bullets near the base's boundary wall.
"The attackers later entered the camp and they have been cornered in one of the family quarters," Singh told AFP.
Television footage showed a helicopter hovering over the gunfight site as soldiers moved inside the base in armoured vehicles.
Officials said scores of people from the army's family quarters were safely evacuated before a counter offensive was launched by elite commandos.
There was no clarity on the number of attackers or their nationalities.
Hindu-majority Jammu, located in the foothills of the mountainous region, is relatively peaceful but has repeatedly seen militant assaults on military bases close to the state's border with Pakistan.
Seven soldiers were killed in a similar attack in Jammu after suspected Pakistani militants in police uniforms stormed a major army base in November 2016.
The attack came just a month after India said it launched "surgical strikes" on militant bases inside Pakistan-administered Kashmir to avenge the killing of 19 soldiers in an assault on another base in Kashmir region in September 2016.
India accuses Pakistan of sending armed militants from across the border to attack its forces, a charge denied by Islamabad.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from Britain in 1947. Both claim the territory in full and have fought two wars over the mountainous region.
Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have died in an armed insurgency that erupted in 1989.
Rebel groups, including the JeM, have for years fought the roughly half a million Indian soldiers deployed in the region, demanding that Kashmir be granted independence or merged with Pakistan.
New Delhi accuses JeM of staging attacks in Kashmir and elsewhere, including a deadly strike on the Indian Parliament in 2001 that brought the two nuclear-armed neighbours to the brink of war.