The attack on the 36 Brigade Sunjuwan military station in the wee hours on Saturday by heavily-armed militants caught both the army and the police off guard. The army has confirmed the death of at least two personnel, including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) at the base – which houses over 3,500 troops, including those of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI).
According to latest reports, three militants have been neutralised, and one is believed to be still holed up inside. Nine including one major and women were injured in the incident.
The militants had sneaked in from the canal on the rear end of the premises. A defence spokesperson based in Jammu said that the forces “checked the entry of militants at the periphery”. He further said, “The militants managed to enter due to the darkness and the grass.”
The attack, carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants, resembled the 2016 attack at the Pathankot air force station, in which seven security personnel were killed. In that attack, heavily armed militants had breached the wall of the army camp from the rear side.
The attack at Sunjuwan, which lies on the outskirts of Jammu, comes only three days after the shootout at SMHS hospital at Srinagar. While two policemen died in the shootout, top militant commander Mohammad Naveed Jaat escaped from police custody.
The Sunjuwan terror strike took place despite the alert in the state due to the death anniversary of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. Police officials have described the attack as well-planned.
The police had claimed to have put in place heavy security arrangements after intelligence inputs pointed out that militants may attack the installations of the government forces in view of the protest call given by separatists to observe the death anniversary of Afzal Guru. On Friday, Kashmir remained shut to observe the fifth death anniversary of the 2001 Parliament attack convict.
However, even personnel at the Channi police station, which is a few kilometers away, were taken off guard and only woke up after the gunshots.
The incident caused an uproar in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly. Minister for Revenue and Parliamentary Affairs AR Veeri said that after the initial call was received at the Police Control Room (PCR) Jammu at around 5 am, “all the concerned police establishments, as well as civil administration, were alerted about the incident”.
A police official said that the militants got inside through the canal on the rear end of the camp.
“It looks like the militants had recently infiltrated and breached the wall of the camp to sneak in. They entered from the wall which had already broken down from the side of the family quarters,” he said.
The official further stated that the militants avoided making an entry from the “side where the civilian population is housed to avoid getting spotted”.
Police officials said that militants, after opening heavy fire on the troops, entered into the JCO quarters, where they were engaged in a gunfight for several hours. The military station serves as a base for army regiments including JAKLI that draws a large number of personnel from the restive state.
During the day, while army personnel engaged the militants inside the military station, the outer perimeter of the camp was ringed by the personnel of the police and the CRPF. “An outer cordon was maintained by the CRPF and police to ensure that the militants don’t manage to escape from the place,” said a police official.
Officials said that after the militants were confined inside one of the buildings of the camp, intermittent firing continued till late in the afternoon. While the army was engaging the militants inside the camp, they managed to shift the injured to the military hospital at Satwari. Some of the injured were later shifted from the military hospital to the Government Medical College, Jammu.
Police officials said that the operation was protracted as families of the army personnel resided in the quarters. The army deployed personnel from a para commando unit to eliminate the militants.