[General Singh said initial reports suggested that Jaish-e-Muhammad, a militant group based in Pakistan, had carried out the attack. India has blamed the group for an attack on the Pathankot air force base in January as well as numerous other attacks in recent decades.]
By Hari Kumar and Geeta Anand
Indian soldiers arriving at the army base, in Uri, Kashmir, that heavily armed militants
stormed on Sunday. Credit Mukhtar Khan/Associated Press
NEW DELHI — In one of the deadliest attacks in the disputed region of Kashmir, heavily armed militants stormed an Indian Army base near the border with Pakistan early Sunday, killing 17 soldiers.
India’s home minister, Rajnath Singh, in a series of pointed comments on Twitter, appeared to accuse Pakistan of being behind the attack.
“I am deeply disappointed with Pakistan’s continued and direct support to terrorism and terrorist groups,” he said.
India’s director general of military operations, Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh, said in a televised statement that the militants were “foreign terrorists” carrying items with “Pakistani markings.” He said he had contacted his counterpart in the Pakistani Army to express “our serious concerns.”
General Singh said initial reports suggested that Jaish-e-Muhammad, a militant group based in Pakistan, had carried out the attack. India has blamed the group for an attack on the Pathankot air force base in January as well as numerous other attacks in recent decades.
In an interview on Sunday, Mohammad Nafees Zakaria, a spokesman for the Pakistani Ministry for Foreign Affairs, rejected allegations of Pakistani involvement.
The Indian Army said that at 5:30 a.m., the attackers, carrying AK-47 assault rifles and grenades, entered the grounds of the base in Uri, a town in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir that is among those closest to the de facto border with Pakistan.
Four militants were killed in the ensuing fighting, said S. D. Goswami, a spokesman for the army’s Northern Command, which oversees Kashmir.
India and Pakistan have been locked in a dispute over the Himalayan region since the two countries secured independence from Britain in 1947. There has been a resurgence of protests in the Indian-administered portion since early July, when Indian security forces killed a 22-year-old militant leader, Burhan Muzaffar Wani.
Young people have taken to the streets to demonstrate, many by pelting stones at security forces, who have retaliated by firing pellet guns and rifles. More than 70 people, most of them civilians, have been killed, and thousands have been injured, including many members of the security forces.
The latest attack is sure to raise tensions between the two countries, which have fought three wars since independence, two of them over Kashmir. India has long accused Pakistan of sponsoring militant attacks in the region.
Syed Ata Hasnain, a retired lieutenant general formerly with the Uri brigade, said by telephone from New Delhi that it was imperative that India respond vigorously to the attack.
“You can’t defend every piece of land along a 750-kilometer-long Line of Control, but you should retaliate to send a strong message across the border,” he said, referring to the demarcation, about 470 miles.
In a statement on Sunday, the army said a large number of troops had been stationed at the Uri base after returning from a tour of duty. They were housed in tents and other temporary shelters, which caught fire during the attack, resulting in heavy casualties.
The area around Uri is hilly, heavily forested and crisscrossed by the Jhelum River and many streams. Substantial forces from India and Pakistan are stationed there, all but eyeball to eyeball in some places.
“The militants rolled over from top of the hill and entered from the rear side of the infantry base,” Mr. Goswami said by telephone.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India wrote on Twitter: “We strongly condemn the cowardly terror attack in Uri. I assure the nation that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished.”
The home minister, Mr. Singh, wrote that he had convened a security meeting in New Delhi to review the security situation after the attack and had canceled a planned trip to Russia and the United States. The army said on Twitter that Gen. Dalbir Singh, the army chief, was rushing to the attack site.
The home minister, after the security meeting, added on Twitter, “There are definite and conclusive indications that the perpetrators of Uri attack were highly trained, heavily armed and specially equipped.” In another Twitter statement, he said, “Pakistan is a terrorist state and it should be identified and isolated as such.”
Pakistani officials responded that the allegations were unfounded and an attempt by India to divert attention from its oppression of the uprising in Kashmir. “India is trying to hide its crimes against humanity in occupied Kashmir,” Mr. Zakaria said.
Mohammed Aslam, who lives near the base in Uri, said that he had heard gunfire beginning before sunrise on Sunday and that it had continued for at least two hours.
“We were shocked and surprised when the firing started,” he said.
Farooq Ahmad Khan, a teacher who also lives near the army camp, said he had not heard “this kind of firing” in the area for 20 years.
A blast followed, Mr. Khan said, and “then we saw heavy smoke coming out of the army camp from three different places.”
A helicopter arrived soon afterward, he said, and began making trips into and out of the camp.
Last week, India refused to allow an activist from Kashmir to leave the country to speak at a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. The activist, Khurram Parvez of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, has since been detained by the police, and he remained in custody on Sunday.
Hari Kumar reported from New Delhi, and Geeta Anand from Mumbai, India. Sameer Yasir contributed reporting from Uri, India, and Salman Masood from Islamabad, Pakistan