Srinagar: It was a day of terror in Kashmir as 21 people, including eight army men, were killed and at least 10 injured Friday in a string of brazen militant strikes, days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rally here for the staggered assembly elections.
Heavily armed militants attacked an army camp and a police checkpost, besides hurling a grenade at a posse of security personnel at three places. A smoke grenade also went off at a fourth place.
Modi is to address an election rally in Srinagar Monday. The state is in the midst of the five-phase assembly elections, with the next phase scheduled for Dec 9. The polls began Nov 25 and end Dec 20, with the vote count to be held Dec 23.
The initial two rounds of balloting in the violence-ridden state have seen heavy voter turnout, which has been described as a victory for democracy and the people's answer to militants' bullets. The terrorists have struck four days ahead of the third round of voting.
Modi condemned the attacks as "desperate attempts" to sabotage the polls. "Attacks in Jammu and Kashmir are condemnable. They are desperate attempts to derail the atmosphere of hope and goodwill as seen by increased voter turnout," he tweeted.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh slammed Pakistan for the serial terror attacks and demanded that it should stop these incidents.
The home minister told TV reporters in New Delhi that Pakistan gives shelter to terrorists and its result is violence in the Kashmir Valley.
"Pakistan gives shelter to terrorists, it should answer for that," he said. "If Pakistan can't stop these incidents, they should speak to India about it."
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said the terror attacks Friday "once again show the desperate levels militants will go to to disrupt peace and normalcy".
He described it as "a terrible day" and said in a tweet: "Four attacks and a number of deaths - security forces & innocent civilians killed in the valley today."
Eight army men, including a senior officer, and three policemen were killed Friday battling a group of heavily armed militants who mounted an audacious attack on the army camp in Baramulla district. All the six rebels were killed.
Lt.Col. Sankalp Kumar and a junior commissioned officer were among the soldiers killed in the pre-dawn terror attack at the army's Field Ordnance Camp located at Mohra, near the border town of Uri.
The group of militants sneaked close to the army camp and struck at 3 a.m., but they met with stiff resistance at the camp's main gate.
The sentries on duty heard the gunshots and challenged the rebels who were armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades.
A senior police officer told IANS, eight soldiers and three policemen were killed in the attack. The gun battle was now over.
There are differing accounts of whether the militants managed to enter the army camp. An officer said that they did enter, but the attack was repulsed, while another said the gunfight was confined to the main gate of the camp.
Quick Response Teams (QRTs) were "rushed to the site after the militants attacked the camp. The militants opened fire at one of the QRT vehicles on the main road, killing an officer and two soldiers", the officer said.
Even as the gun battle was dying down in Uri, a report came in of a terror attack on a police checkpost in Srinagar Friday.
The separatist guerrillas attacked the police checkpost in Soura area, about 10 km from Srinagar city centre Lal Chowk.
A senior police officer told IANS that in the gunfight that followed, two militants were killed. One militant was killed immediately and the other who tried to hide in a house in the area also was killed in the ensuing gunfight.
The third terror attack took place in south Kashmir's Tral town, 45 km from here, where two persons were killed and 10 others were injured when a grenade hurled by militants exploded.
"Militants lobbed a grenade towards a posse of security forces in Tral town today (Friday) afternoon. The grenade exploded on the road, injuring 12 civilians, of whom two died," a senior police officer told IANS here.
The report of the fourth terror attack was sketchy. It was not clear whether a grenade attack took place at a police station in Shopian, with the police maintaining that only a smoke grenade went off.