A tank from the Indian army moves past soldiers during a search operation after a gun battle at an army camp in Mesar in Samba district September 26, 2013.
A tank from the Indian army moves past soldiers during a search operation after a gun battle at an army camp in Mesar in Samba district September 26, 2013.Reuters

Security forces in the Samba district of Jammu and Kashmir state gunned down all three terrorists involved in the twin terror attack by Thursday evening, ending its operation against the deadly shooting spree that killed 12 people earlier in the day.

Indian forces closed in on the three militants, who took cover in an army barracks in the district, triggering a heavy exchange of fire that persisted for several hours. Helicopters were also pressed into service in the army operation.

The army has taken custody of the millitants' bodies and ruled out the involvement of a fourth terrorist in the attack. The militants, aged no more than 20, are suspected to be from Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Government officials said the militants entered the Indian-administered area of Jammu from across the international border, only to have their infiltration attempts thwarted off by the army operation. Many more militants are believed to be in hiding as the Samba area was cordoned off after the attack.

The terrorists, guised in army outfits, had opened fire at the Hiranagar police station in Kathua district at 6:45 am, killing six. They moved on to the 16 Cavalry in Mesar where they shot dead an army officer, two jawans and the driver of the truck they had hijacked on their way to the barracks. Two civilians were also killed.

The Shohada Brigade, a lesser-known military wing of LeT, claimed responsibility for the attack which some suspect is an attempt to disrupt the dialogue process between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistan counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, who will meet in New York on Sunday.

Singh condemned the attack and said that the proposed talks would take place at the UN General Assembly as scheduled.

"This is one more in a series of provocations and barbaric actions by the enemies of peace," Singh told Reuters. "Such attacks will not deter us and will not succeed in derailing our efforts to find a resolution to all problems through a process of dialogue."

His decision to go ahead with the weekend talks met with strong opposition from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which found them futile citing Pakistan's relentless cross-border attacks over the years.

BJP Yashwant Sinha, voicing the party's demand to call off the dialogue process, told Reuters, "We are not going to achieve anything and therefore I have no hesitation in saying that the prime minister should call off the talks ... I insist he should call off the talks even at this stage."

The state unit has called for a Bandh in Jammu on Friday in the wake of the terror attack, which it blamed on the UPA government's weak foreign policy over the years.

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