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Jawan killed, finger at Pakistan

- Suspicion of cross-border raid
A soldier keeps watch during a gun battle with militants at Chadoora, on the outskirts of Srinagar, on Monday. (AFP)

Srinagar, May 19: An army jawan died after being attacked close to the LoC in Jammu by suspected members of a Pakistani squad that also comprises militants, escalating border tension ahead of Narendra Modi’s coronation.

Army sources said members of the Border Action Team (BAT) — believed to comprise Pakistani troops and militants — were involved in the incident in Jammu’s Akhnoor sector yesterday.

The accounts of the sources and an army spokesperson suggested the attackers may have crossed over.

The strike comes days before the swearing-in of Modi, who had said earlier this month that talks with Pakistan could not be held amid “bombs blasts and gunshots”. In January last year, an Indian soldier’s head was severed in a suspected cross-border raid in Jammu’s Poonch, over 100km from the site of the latest attack.

In a separate incident that occurred today in Budgam near Srinagar, an army jawan was killed in a gun battle with militants.

In yesterday’s Jammu attack, suspected BAT members first exploded a device when an Indian army patrol was passing a post in Akhnoor’s Jugwan area, the sources said.

The explosion left a jawan injured and when others rushed to the spot, they came under fire in which one of the personnel died and another soldier was wounded.

“The incident took place 500 to 600 metres inside the fence,” an army officer said. The slain jawan was identified as Sepoy Bhikale Uttam Balu of the Maratha Light Infantry regiment. He was from Maharashtra.

The army spokesperson said the attackers were “unidentified armed personnel” who had “crossed over to this side of the fence”. He didn’t clarify whether the “armed personnel”, who used mines and small arms fire, were militants or Pakistani troops.

“Our troops returned fire and the group fled back across the LoC towards Pakistan. Injury/effect on the fleeing personnel is not known. Search of the area yielded Pakistan-made mines and other equipment, which clearly suggests the involvement of Pakistan and terrorists from across the Line of Control,” the spokesperson said.

Hours later, security forces foiled an infiltration attempt by militants in Rajouri, also in Jammu and around 100km from Akhnoor. A bomb kept near the fence was defused, the sources said.

In Budgam, the other army jawan died during a gun battle with militants today. “While the troops were cordoning off the spot, terrorists in hiding fired on them, causing injuries to four jawans,” a defence spokesperson in Srinagar said. One of the jawans later succumbed to injuries. The operation in the Chadoora area was continuing.

Bilateral talks

Pakistan today said India “should not shy away” from dealing with “contentious” issues such as Jammu and Kashmir, and not lay down pre-conditions for talks, PTI reports.

Abdul Basit, Pakistan’s high commissioner, described the issue as “important”. “It is part of the composite dialogue. We should not shy away from contentious issues,” Basit said in Delhi.

The envoy also said Islamabad looked forward to a visit by Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, renewing the invitation extended by the Nawaz Sharif government last week.

BJP spokesperson Nirmala Seetharaman said by making such remarks, Islamabad itself was putting conditions, and raised questions on the slow trial in Pakistan of Mumbai attack suspects.