The pre-dawn attack by the Pakistani fidayeen on a military base in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, had a numbing familiarity to it.
Heavily armed attackers trained for the single mission of their lives - to kill as many security forces as they could before being killed in combat.
In this case, 17 Indian Army soldiers were killed in the fire-fight which lasted three hours before the four attackers were gunned down. This has been the template for hundreds of fidayeen attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, introduced by Pakistan after the Kargil War of 1999 to shore up a dying local insurgency.
Suicide attackers have been the weapon of choice in several recent attacks including those outside of J&K, from Mumbai on November 26, 2008, Dinanagar in Gurdaspur district last year and the Pathankot airbase attack on January 1 this year.
The one aspect that stands out in this attack - the single largest loss of lives in recent years after the June 4 attack in Manipur where 18 soldiers were killed - is use of incendiary ammunition. This is ammunition composed of highly combustible chemicals, designed to set fire to buildings, bunkers and vehicles. The Army officials say the terrorists fired "incendiary ammunition along with automatic fire of small arms that led to Army tents/ temporary shelters catching fire".
The use of incendiary ammunition in the Uri attack is extremely significant.
Unusually, all four terrorists had Under Barrel Grenade Launchers (UBGLs) with their AK-47s (not more than one or two in a group would carry UBGLs). The Russian-made GP-25 "Kostyor" (bonfire) fitted under an AK-47 fires a single 40 mm grenade shell to a distance of 400m. A skilled user can lob five-six grenades a minute. A barrage of incendiary grenades from four terrorists could create a conflagration in a very short time.
|File photo of a slain terrorist with an AK-47 equipped with a GP-25 Under Barrel Grenade Launcher. Inset, A cross-section of a GP-25 incendiary round.|
The terrorists carried over 50 such grenades and fired 17 rounds at the camp.
The terrorists had come with a very specific plan to kill the highest number of troops in the shortest possible time. They displayed an ability to home on, locate and exploit vulnerability - in this case troops sleeping in temporary accommodation.
This suggests a higher level of intelligence and training beyond the pale of a group like the Jaish-e-Mohammed (which the Indian Army says carried out the attack).
The masterminds of this attack were evidently quick to learn from the June 4, 2015 ambush by Manipuri militants on an Indian Army convoy. Eighteen soldiers were killed, many of them severely burnt, after fuel trucks they were riding in were hit by militant fire.
Incendiary ammunition is not as easily available as regular AK-47 ammunition or grenades. The Indian Army uses white phosphorous incendiary grenades but these are extremely difficult to store and maintain.
The army's director general of military operations lieutenant general Ranbir Singh told media in the capital that he spoke to the Pakistan DGMO to convey India's "serious concern" over the recovery of "certain items with Pakistani markings on them".
It is not yet known what these items were, whether military stores or provisions. Unfortunately, no terrorists survived the attack to reveal the magnitude of the planning, preparation and training.
A careful investigation of their personal effects, particularly the origin of the incendiary ammunition could, over the coming days, point to evidence of military support from across the border.