NEW DELHI - Seven Indian soldiers and three attackers were killed when armed militants stormed an army base in the northern Jammu and Kashmir state early Tuesday.
The latest incident is likely to further heighten tensions between India and Pakistan, whose ties hit a low point following a September attack on an Indian army camp in the disputed Kashmir region.
The soldiers and militants were killed in a gunbattle that raged for hours after the assailants lobbed grenades and opened fire while trying to enter the Nagrota base, a major army camp that is one of the four command centers in Kashmir.
Nagrota lies about 20 kilometers from Jammu on the main highway that connects the city with Srinagar. Jammu and Srinagar are Kashmir's two main cities.
Authorities said the militants took hostages, including two women and children, when they entered the building used by families of the army officers. They said three of the seven soldiers were killed in a rescue operation.
Defense Ministry spokesman Manish Mehta said, “Early morning the encounter took place. The situation is under control.”
The militants apparently managed to take positions inside the complex near an artillery unit.
No group has claimed responsibility.
A separate firefight also took place when Indian forces said they killed three militants trying to cross into India from Pakistan.
There has been growing anger in India over terror attacks that have targeted installations of the armed forces in recent months.
India accuses Pakistan of supporting and financing the terrorists who mount the assaults, a charge Islamabad has strongly denied.
Nirmal Singh, the deputy chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, called the latest attack a signal of Pakistan’s frustration. “India is not a weak country. It will not be weakened and we will answer them in whatever language they understand,” he said.
The attack on the army camp comes after a five-day lull in intense cross-border firing along the Kashmir 'Line of Control' raised hopes that the two sides were trying to lower tensions.
The Kashmir border has seen heavy artillery and mortar firing since the Indian army said it mounted surgical strikes in Pakistan to take out militant camps after an attack on an army base in Uri that killed 20 soldiers.
Divided between the two countries, the Himalayan region of Kashmir is claimed in its entirety by both.
Diplomatic relations have also turned frosty, with both countries mounting charges of spying on diplomats and expelling them.
Sartaj Aziz, the foreign affairs adviser to Pakistan's prime minister, is due to visit India next week for an Asian regional conference, but political observers say there are no signals that the two sides will use the opportunity to start a dialogue to lower tensions.
So far, no bilateral talks have been scheduled, according to Indian Foreign Ministry officials.
“Our position has been very, very clear. We are for a dialogue with Pakistan, but talks and terror cannot go together. It is incumbent upon Pakistan to create the necessary environment for a conducive bilateral dialogue to happen,” the Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Vikas Swarup, told reporters recently.