Jammu/New Delhi: In a provocative attack, a group of 20 heavily armed men led by Pakistani troops entered 450 metres into the Indian territory in the Poonch sector in Jammu and Kashmir in the wee hours on Tuesday and ambushed a patrol killing five Indian soldiers, sparking all round outrage with demands for strong Government response.
"A patrol of Indian Army comprising of one Non-Commissioned Officer and five other ranks was ambushed by a Pak Border Action Team (BAT) close to the Line of Control in Poonch Sector of J&K early morning", Defence spokesman, Jammu, S.N. Acharya said in an official statement.
"In the ensuing firefight, five Indian soldiers were martyred. The ambush was carried out by approximately 20 heavily armed terrorists along with soldiers of Pak Army," he said, adding one soldier was injured.
In Delhi, Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner Mansoor Ahmed Khan was summoned to South Block and a strong protest was lodged over the killing of Indian soldiers.
The issue rocked both Houses of Parliament with members demanding a quick and firm response from the government. BJP and Samajwadi members asked why Government was feeling 'completely helpless' in the face of repeated aggression by Pakistan.
Making a suo motu statement in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, Defence Minister A K Antony said the attack was carried out by "terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniform".
The minister said India will take all necessary steps to uphold the sanctity of the Line of Control. Later replying to a debate in the Rajya Sabha, the minister said New Delhi's response will depend on signals and actions from Pakistan.
Defence sources said the Pakistani soldiers, numbering about 20, intruded into the Indian territory past midnight and ambushed the patrol party at the Sarla post on the Indian side of the LoC.
A Subedar and four jawans of the 21 Bihar Unit were killed in the attack which took place at around 2 AM, the sources said. The attack took place 450 metres from the LoC on the Indian side, they said.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi said India would not be cowed down by the 'deceitful' killing of five of its soldiers and asked the Government to take 'appropriate' measures. However, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or his office did not offer any reaction to the Pakistani attack.
Expressing deep grief and shock over the incident, Sonia Gandhi said that the entire Congress party as indeed the entire country stands by the families of the martyred soldiers. The deceased jawans belonging to 21 Bihar Regiment were deployed on the Sarla forward post along LoC in Chakan-Da-Bagh sector of Poonch. Those who died have been identified as Naik Prem Nath Singh, Lance Naik Shambu Suran Rai, Sepoy Ravinand Prasad, Sepoy Vijay Kumar Rai and Kuleen Mannae.
A senior Army officer said the patrol had lost contact with the army unit around 0115 hours on Tuesday. We sent a patrol in the area around 0530 hours and found five jawans with gun-shot wounds dead and one was injured ."
The bodies have been brought back to unit area. The attack took place 450 metres from the LoC on the Indian side, Defence sources said.
Activists of Shiv Sena and Dogra Front shout slogans during a protest in Jammu on Tuesday against the killing of five Indian soldiers in an ambush by Pakistani troops - PTI
Strongly condemning the "unprovoked incident", Antony said," I assure the House that our army is fully ready to take all necessary steps to uphold the sanctity of the LoC".
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted, "(I) was briefed early this morning about the news that five of our soldiers had been killed on the LoC. My heartfelt condolences to their next of kin. "These incidents don't help efforts to normalise or even improve relations with Pak and call in to question the Pak Govt's recent overtures," he said.
Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh, who took stock of the situation, will visit Poonch, Army sources said in Delhi. The incident could cast a shadow on the resumption of the Indo-Pak dialogue process.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif are slated to meet in New York next month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session. The dialogue process was put on hold following the beheading of an Indian soldier and another soldier's body found mutilated following the January 8 attack by Pakistani troops in the Poonch sector.
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