The militants, who carried out the deadly attack on Tuesday morning on Army’s 166 Field Regiment at Nagrota, also tried to take four to five families hostage in order to prolong the siege. The families of the army men were living in a building adjacent to officers’ mess.
“There were at least four to five families living inside the complex which the militants tried to take hostage. This hostage like crisis was averted but an officer lost his life while rescuing these families,” Defence PRO, Manish Mehta, told Firstpost. Two army jawans also lost their lives during the rescue operations.
The attackers in Nagrota disguised themselves in police uniform and forced their entry into the officers mess complex, throwing grenades and firing at the sentries. One officer and three soldiers were killed in the initial exchange of gunfire.
About a dozen soldiers were injured in the initial militant attack and the subsequent cross-firing and three army personnel, including Major Kunal Gossain of 166 Medium Regiment, succumbed to their injuries at Nagrota’s Army-base hospital soon after, the officials said.
The militants were armed with automatic weapons and explosives and they started firing indiscriminately at the Officers' Mess inside the camp.
“The terrorist entered two buildings which were occupied by officers, families and men. This led to a hostage like situation,” Defence spokesperson, Colonel NN Joshi, said.
However, the bravery of the wives of two army soldiers also helped curtail the situation from escalating.
"The wives of the two army officers, who were on night duty when the encounter broke out, displayed exemplary courage as they blocked the entry of their quarters with all the household items, making it difficult for the terrorists to break into the houses," an army officer privy to the encounter told PTI.
Had the women not shown this alertness, the terrorists would have been able to take them hostage and would have succeeded in causing huge damage to the army and the families, he said.
“The situation was very quickly contained and thereafter, in a deliberate operation all were successfully rescued, which included 12 soldiers, two ladies and two children. However, in this rescue attempt one more officer and two Jawans sacrificed their lives,” Defence spokesman Lt Col Manish Mehta said in a statement.
“There were at least four to five families inside the complex but they (militants) failed to take them hostage as the troops responded quickly to the situation,” another Indian army officer, told Firstpost.
“Had they managed to take these people hostage, it would have been a damage of immense proportions and this would have meant that it would have taken a long time for the operation to end,” he added.
In a separate incident, three militants were also gunned down by BSF in Ramgarh area of Samba near the International Border in an encounter that lasted several hours and was followed by intense cross-border firing by Pakistani troops. Four security personnel, including a BSF DIG, were injured in this incident
As the day came to end thirteen people were killed in eight hours on Tuesday, including seven soldiers and six militants.
Sources said the militants, who stormed the unit which is three kilometers from the 16 Corps headquarters at Nagrota area of Jammu, could have possibly infiltrated in the wee hours of Tuesday, taking advantage of the foggy weather. But security agencies are also not ruling out the possibility of militants having travelled from south Kashmir to Jammu to carry out the attack.
Nagrota town, located at 13 kilometres north of Jammu along the Jammu-Srinagar highway is the headquarters of the Army’s 16 Corps.
This is the deadliest attack on an Army base after the 18 September Uri attack in which heavily armed militants — suspected to be from Pakistan-based JeM — stormed the Uri army base that left at least 20 soldier dead.
In the aftermath of the Uri attack, New Delhi had claimed that it had carried out surgical strikes inside Pakistan administrated Kashmir but since then the de facto borders between two neighbors in Jammu and Kashmir have witnessed major escalation, with soldiers from both sides trading fire , leaving more than forty people dead on both sides.