Jammu attack: By entering fortified Sunjuwan army camp from rear, 'Afzal Guru Squad' exploited security lapse

The 'Afzal Guru squad' which the security agencies believe is behind Saturday's attack on Sunjuwan Military Station in Jammu, is emerging as the biggest challenge for security agencies in Jammu and Kashmir. The suicide attackers of the squad have been able to carry out deadly attacks at will on security forces including the Indian Army, who have failed to put a break on their plans.

The militants managed to attack the Sunjuwan Military Station in Chenni, located on the outskirts of the Jammu city, despite a red alert about the possibility of a strike by Jaish-e-Mohammad militants to mark the fifth anniversary of the execution of Afzal Guru. The 2001 Parliament attack convict was hanged inside Tihar Jail and buried there on 9 February, 2013.

Security personnel takes positions at Sunjuwan Army camp in Jammu. PTI

Security personnel takes positions at Sunjuwan Army camp in Jammu. PTI

The attack also points to significant security lapse as the militants were able to enter the military station from the rear side and managed to reach the JCO quarters, deep inside the camp. And that is despite the fact that the Sunjuwan Military Station is a heavily fortified camp which is a thoroughly monitored and guarded army installation.

"It's almost impossible to breach the security at the front gate. That is the reason why they chose to enter the camp from the rear side. And they must have walked almost 200 meters and reached the JCO quarters,” a senior Indian Army officer told Firstpost on the condition of anonymity.

“This points at a possible security lapse,” he added.

The Indian Air Force para commandos which were airlifted from Udhampur have already reached the site, however, the operation is likely to take longer than expected as they are moving ahead cautiously.

One Jaish-e-Mohammed militant has reportedly been killed, while others are currently holed up near a building in the camp and the army would like to take every move with caution as the family members of the officers are still trapped in nearby buildings, officials said, adding that there's no hostage situation inside the camp.

“The operation is being carried out in such a manner that the number of casualties doesn’t go up. Two army men have already been killed so far four soldiers have suffered injuries. We don't want to take more casualties,” the army officer said.

In Kashmir, security forces have sealed almost all the entry and exit points of Srinagar, when Jaish-e-Mohammed militants struck the Sunjuwan military station at around 4.45 am on Saturday.

Unlike other attacks carried out by the Afzal Guru squad, this one was close to Jammu city, and not along the Line of Control (LoC) or the International Border, as has been the trend with most of the attacks carried out by the group.

Security personnel takes positions at Sunjuwan Army camp in Jammu. Sameer Yasir

Security personnel takes positions at Sunjuwan Army camp in Jammu. Sameer Yasir

This time too, the security agencies were expecting an attack along the LoC or the International Border but not so close to the Jammu city.

“How did the militants manage to reach Sunjuwan is a million dollar question that has to be investigated because the nearest International Border fence in RS Pura sector is at least 35 kilometers from the Sunjuwan Military Station," an official said.

The Afzal Guru Squad first surfaced with a series of devastating raids in mid-2014 on army installations along the LoC and the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir. Inside the Indian Army bases, the squad left their signatures in blood. In some attacks, the group also left a terse message — It is revenge for Afzal Guru — on the installations which they targeted.

The first raids were carried out by members of the squad against army bases in Mohra and Tangdhar in north Kashmir. They were followed up with attacks in Kathua and Samba of Jammu division. The most devastating attack took place at the Pathankot airbase which put brakes on the fragile India-Pakistan bonhomie.

The announcement of the formation of the Afzal Guru Squad was made by Jaish-e-Mohammad founder and militant cleric Maulana Masood Azhar, whose enmity with India dates back to three decades. Azhar had announced the formation of the Afzal Guru Squad in 2014. The group had more than 300 hundred fidayeen ready to carry out attacks in India, according to a speech delivered by Azhar in January 2014.

The last attack by the Afzal Guru Squad took place at a paramilitary base in the highly fortified Humhama area outside Srinagar city. The three attackers who penetrated the headquarters of the 182 Battalion of Border Security Force were part of a batch of 17 militants who had infiltrated the Kashmir Valley in the midsummer 2017 and established bases in south Kashmir.

Around seven to ten members of the batch — which includes at least one more fidayeen squad — were, according to ADGP Jammu and Kashmir Police Munir Khan, "untraceable".

The attack on the BSF camp came after three militants from the Afzal Guru Squad carried out a similar attack on District Police Lines (DPL) on 26 August, that left eight personnel of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) dead, in Pulwama of south Kashmir.

The biggest attack that the group carried out in Kashmir Valley was the one on Uri Brigade in 2016 that left 19 army soldiers dead. The four attackers were killed as well.

It is quite possible the attackers who stormed the Sunjuwan army camp on Saturday are the same militants who were untraceable since 2017, but how they managed to reach Jammu despite such strict security is a cause of concern.

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Updated Date: Feb 10, 2018 18:51:32 IST

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