Inputs suggest foreign handlers controlled JeM terrorists: Sitharaman


JAMMU, Feb 12: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today blamed Pakistan for the terror attack at the Sunjuwan Military Camp here and made it clear that it will pay the price for the ‘misadventure’.
"Pakistan will pay for this misadventure, I repeat, Pakistan will definitely pay the price of this misadventure," Defence Minister responded in as strong words as these to the questions of media persons about the Sunjwan army camp attack on Saturday.
Sitharaman was in Jammu on Monday to meet the injured soldiers and civilians and assess the security situation at the Sunjuwan military camp. She also held a brief meeting with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti over the security situation and conducted an aerial survey of the military camp in Jammu, which came under assault on Saturday.
Nirmala Sitharaman visited Tiger Division today. On her arrival, she was received by Lt Gen YVK Mohan, General Officer Commanding, Rising Star Corps and Air Commodore SK Mishra, AOC, Air Force Station Jammu.
Immediately after the arrival she was briefed by the GOC Rising Star Corps about the operation at Sunjuwan Military Station. She also went on for an aerial reconnaissance, reviewed the situation in detail and interacted with senior officers at Tiger Division.
Then she visited Military Hospital Jammu and interacted with all the injured soldiers, families and children. She was briefed by Brig Ajay Malik, Commandant Military Hospital, Jammu about the medical status of all injured and others. She pacified, motivated all the injured and assured of all possible assistance. She also interacted with the team doctors who worked round the clock to save the precious lives including the successful delivery of a pregnant lady who was also badly injured during the terrorists attack at Sunjuwan Garrison.
Thereafter, speaking at a press conference, the defence minister stated that the evidence collected thus far in the preliminary investigation suggests that the militants enjoyed local support in the area.
"The demography of the cantonment and the adjoining area indicates a possibility of local support to the terrorists before the final operation," Sitharaman said in a statement she said read out to the press. "The evidence is being scrutinised by the National Investigating Agency, which will soon furbish a detailed report," she added.
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".
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, inspite 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.
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 defence minister said that quick reaction teams (QRTs) were deployed in vulnerable areas. It was assessed that Pak-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 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 J&K 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 very severe struggle. Sitharaman also visited the injured at the hospital today.
She also said intelligence inputs suggested that terrorists who attacked the Sunjuwan Military Camp here 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. There was a possibility that the intruders benefited from local support, she added.
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.
She said the terrorists, sponsored by Azhar Masood in Pakistan, chose to attack a military station which houses both troops and their families.
In the end, I wish to express my deepest condolences on the loss of lives of our brave soldiers and their families during the dastardly attack on our unarmed soldiers and assure our nation that their sacrifice would not go in vain, she said.
"I compliment the valour of our brave soldiers who carried out this operation with precision and professionalism.
We will continue to thwart any attempt by Pakistan sponsored terrorists to cause violence in our country," she said.

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