In a twin terror attack, three heavily-armed militants dressed in army fatigues on Thursday stormed a police station and an army camp in Jammu region killing nine people including a Lieutenent Colonel, casting a shadow on the upcoming meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
Four policemen were among the six killed in the audacious 'fidayeen'(suicide) attack on the Hiranagar police station in Kathua while three army personnel including Lt Col Bikramjeet Singh died in a similar strike shortly afterwards on the army camp at nearby Samba, officials said.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah while condemning the terror attacks remarked that “at least 12 people have been killed”. However, army and police have confirmed nine casualties so far.
A Colonel-level Commanding Officer of the unit was among the three injured in the attack at the camp where a 16 Cavalry formation is stationed.
The three militants first barged into the police station near Jammu-Pathankot National Highway around 6.45 am and indiscriminately fired after hurling a grenade, police said.
Four policemen, including an assistant sub-inspector, were killed and another ASI was injured in the attack that also left a civilian dead, Deputy Inspector General Shakeel Baig said.
The militants later hijacked a tempo truck on the highway, boarded it and forced its driver to move towards Jammu, police said.
The truck was stopped outside the army camp at Samba and the militants then opened indiscriminate firing on jawans deployed at its security gate before they stormed the premises.
They barged into the Army Mess where they resorted to heavy indiscriminate firing as troops geared up and retaliated resulting in fierce gunbattle which was still on.
Senior army officials said three army personnel, including a Lieutenant Colonel, were killed and three others including the Commanding Officer of the unit were injured.
The army have moved in crack commandos and quick action teams inside the camp.
The attack came a day after the Prime Minister left for the US where he is scheduled to meet Sharif on Sunday for talks which have been opposed by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Thursday morning's attack is seen as a bid to derail the meeting from across the border.
Condemning the attacks, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Obdullah said the aim of terrorists is to "derail" the proposed dialogue between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan.
Talking to reporters in Srinagar, Omar held forces inimical to the interest of peace in Kashmir responsible for the dastardly attack.
In New Delhi, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said, "We are in the process of inquiring into the attacks".
Giving details of the attacks, Inspector General Police, Jammu region, Rajesh Kumar said in the first strike in Kathua, three to four militants came in an autorickshaw and killed the guard at the police station.
They then barged into the police station where they killed three persons, he said.
"Subsequently, they took a truck and injured the truck driver on the spot. Then they headed towards the national highway along with the truck driver.
"After sometime they abandoned the truck. They may have taken another vehicle from there and reached the army camp inSamba. The encounter is going on. Additional forces of CRPF, army and police are there," Kumar said.
A heavy gunbattle is going on, DIG Shakeel Baig, who is supervising the operation on the spot, said.
Following the attack on the army camp, the traffic on the Jammu Delhi national highway has been blocked.
Army has pressed into service helicopters for the aerial surveillance of the area where the gunfight is on.
The attacks were condemned by BJP which said it showed that Pakistan is continuing with its strategy to strike at will through proxy war of terror.
"The prime minister had himself assured the nation through both Houses of Parliament after 26/11 and after beheading of two soldiers that second time we will not hold talks with Pakistan till it takes minimal action against terror," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.
"But what are we seeing today that Pakistan land is being used to attack and conduct terror attacks in India," he said.
With inputs from Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar and PTI
Image: A policeman, who was injured in fidayeen raid on the Hiranagar police station in Kathua district, being rushed to the hospital on Thursday