Srinagar: In one of the deadliest attacks on the Army in recent years, seventeen soldiers were killed in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir early on Sunday that also left four terrorists dead, military officials said.
Over two dozen soldiers were also injured in the attack which began at 5.30 a.m. when a group of heavily-armed terrorists targeted the rear administrative base of the army unit, the officials said.
The sneak attack triggered a massive gun battle that lasted well over two-and-a-half-hours, sending huge columns of black smoke rising into the sky.
Unofficial sources said most of the dead soldiers were from the Bihar Regiment. It was reportedly the biggest terror attack on any army camp in Jammu and Kashmir in about a decade.
Explosions and gunfire erupted as the militants attacked the camp, which is located barely few metres away from the Army's Brigade Headquarters in Uri town, 102 kms from here, around 4 AM, official sources said.
The jawans of the Dogra Regiment were sleeping in a tent which caught fire due the explosion. The fire also engulfed the nearby barracks, the sources said.
It is believed that the attack was the handiwork of a group of freshly infiltrated militants who could have entered from an area along the Salamabad Nallah, the sources said.
17 jawans were killed in the terror attack, the Northern Command of the Army said. Nineteen other personnel were injured in the strike in which four militants were killed. Defence sources said that this is one of the deadliest attacks on the Army in recent years.
In January, seven military personnel were killed when six terrorists attacked the Pathankot air base.
The attack comes two years after militants had carried out a similar type of attack at Mohra in the same area. Ten security personnel were killed in the attack that took place on December 5, 2014.
Giving details of the attack, the Army said in a statement, "A group of heavily armed terrorists targeted the rear administrative base of a unit at Uri, Kashmir. In the counter action, four terrorists have been eliminated and combing operations are in progress"
"The administrative base had large strength of troops of units turning over after their tour of duty who were stationed in tents/temporary shelters which caught fire, and resulted in heavy casualties. We salute the sacrifice of 17 soldiers who were martyred in the operation," the statement said.
Helicopters from the Army's 19 divisional headquarters in Baramulla have been pressed into service and the injured Army personnel have been evacuated from the encounter site, the sources said.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag are rushing to Kashmir in the wake of terror attack in Uri.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh has also called an emergency meeting to review the situation arising out of the terror attack.