Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has squarely blamed Pakistan for the terror attack at the Sunjuwan military camp in Jammu and made it clear that it will pay the price for the “misadventure”.
She asserted that even though evidence of Pakistan’s role may be shared, India still reserved the “right to respond adequately at the time our choosing”. “Pakistan will pay for this misadventure. I repeat Pakistan will pay for it,” the defence minister, who arrived in Jammu to take stock of the situation told reporters.
A group of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists had struck the Sunjuwan military camp in the wee hours on Saturday, killing six people including five soldiers. Three terrorists were also gunned down. “I would not certainly set a timeline but Pakistan will pay for this misadventure. I can only assure the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the entire country that the Army, both the governments at the state and the centre, are definitely looking at it with all seriousness,” she said.
Asked whether the government was sharing evidence with Pakistan, Sitharaman replied in the affirmative. “Yes, all the evidences which have been collected will be compiled and definitely the evidences will be given as always to Pakistan. But Pakistan, in spite of being given dossiers after dossiers, has not taken any action,” she said.
“On the contrary, we find people directly responsible for the Mumbai attack and many others still free and roaming happily in Pakistan,” the defence minister said. She said the Centre would provide evidence to prove that the handlers of the terrorists were back in Pakistan and were influencing the attack. Sitharaman said giving evidence to Pakistan would have to be a continuous process because it has to be proven over and over again, as many number of times, so that their involvement is there for everybody to see.
“The evidences will strengthen that argument. But giving that does not deny us our right to respond adequately and at a time of which we think fit,” she said. Sitharaman hailed the coordination among various security agencies operating in the state and said “there will be more information sharing with state police”. Sitharaman said intelligence inputs suggested that terrorists who attacked the Sunjuwan Camp were controlled by handlers from across the border.
Three terrorists were killed even as the initial information was about four of them, she said adding that the fourth may have acted as a guide. The attack by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists, sponsored by Pakistan based Azhar Masood, resulted in the death of six people including five soldiers, she told reporters. Counter terrorist operation at the military camp was called off this morning but sanitisation operations were still on, she added.
The defence minister said the JeM module which conducted the attack may have infiltrated sometime back and possibly enjoyed local support. “The demography of the cantonment and adjoining areas indicate the possibility of local support to the terrorists and an alert had been sounded on the likelihood of an attack by the terrorists around this period,” she said. The defence minister said that quick reaction teams (QRTs) were deployed in vulnerable areas. It was assessed that Pakistan-sponsored terrorists may target softer elements, hence, QRTs were also positioned at Sunjuwan family quarters, she said.
Sitharaman said the intrusions of the terrorists was promptly detected by the sentry and challenged by a nearby QRT leading to the brief exchange of fire. “This immediate action forced terrorists to split into individual positions and prevented a coordinated strike. The scattered terrorists reached the family quarters and occupied some of the blocks,” she said. They were isolated, and since the terrorists were dressed in battle fatigues, and had an appearance similar to their possible victims, the operation had to be done “deliberately slow” to avoid collateral damages, she said.
“The operation entailed the deliberate search of 26 blocks and safe evacuation of families from 189 flats which was time consuming and a challenging task”, she said. Sitharaman also blamed Pakistan for infiltration of terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir and said it was expanding the arc of terror to the areas south of Pir Panjal Ranges.
On her meeting with chief minister, the defence minister said Mufti expressed deep anguish and concern because she too had been to the military hospital and seen the injured recovering there. “She was absolutely emotionally charged when she said women and children were attacked. I shared my grief with her also,” she said.
Asked about the situation in the state, she said “whether it has improved or not, I am not going to say anything on that. We, in coordination with home ministry and ministry of external affairs, are working with the state government to improve the situation and will continue to work in this direction.”
She said all have to work together to make sure that the Army is taken care of, because they are fighting a very severe struggle. Sitharaman also visited the injured at the hospital on Monday.