Nagrota encounter reveals JeM men were in touch with Pak handlers

Intelligence agencies say Pak-based group wanted to thwart J&K local polls and was planning big on 26/11 anniversary

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Security forces personnel take up position during an encounter in J&K | File Photo: PTI

Indian intelligence agencies believe that the truck-borne four terrorists killed in the Nagrota (Jammu) encounter on Thursday (November 19) belonged to Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). Their target was to create mayhem in the run-up to the District Development Council polls due in J&K from December 1.

All political parties, including the Gupkar Declaration partners under the umbrella of People’s Alliance headed by Farooq Abdullah, are participating in the polls. These polls are the first test of Centre’s epoch-making policies, including abrogation of Art 370 and Art 35A.

Intelligence agencies, based on the surveillance of the communication devices owned by the terrorist believe the terrorists were in touch with operational commanders JeM’s Mufti Rauf Asghar and Qari Zarar with the objective of wreaking havoc in the Valley.

The encounter came days ahead of the 26/11 Mumbai attack anniversary, 12 years ago, and that the massive arms and ammunition haul indicated that the Pakistan-based terror masterminds wanted to create the same havoc.

Also read: Mumbai attack mastermind jailed for 10 years in Pak terror cases

The police have recovered 11 AK assault rifles, 24 magazines and 7.5 kg of RDX along with 20 m of IED wire and six detonators. Recoveries include one Under Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL), 29 grenades, five rifle grenades, three pistols with six magazines, a wireless set and a GPS.

“Our security forces have once again displayed utmost bravery and professionalism. Thanks to their alertness, they have defeated a nefarious plot to target grassroots level democratic exercises in Jammu and Kashmir,” Prime Minister Modi tweeted on Friday. His response came after he met some of his senior colleagues and high-ranking officials of security agencies.

The PM named the terror outfit involved. “Neutralizing of 4 terrorists belonging to Pakistan-based terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed and the presence of large cache of weapons and explosives with them indicates that their efforts to wreak major havoc and destruction have once again been thwarted”.

Kaha Phnche Kia Sorate Hal Hai Koi Mushkil To Nahi, 2 Baje, Phir Bta Dan Gy (Where have you reached? What’s the situation? Is there any problem? 2 O’clock, Will let you know).”

These were some of the text messages received by the four JeM terrorists, killed in the encounter on a Digital Mobile Radio manufactured by Pakistani company Micro Electronics.

The terrorists had been in touch with their handlers in Pakistan over smartphones manufactured by Q Mobile, a Pakistani company. They were carrying medicines manufactured in Karachi, and wore shoes made in Pakistan.

“Inputs indicate that the elections scheduled in the Union Territory to establish the third and final tier of the local bodies for governance have unnerved terrorists and Pakistani agencies. The elections have already seen massive participation in terms of nominations and enthusiastic response from the public. The Pakistani terrorists and the huge quantity of weapons were to be used to thwart this process of democratic decentralisation,” an official of the Union Home Ministry said.

Ever since August 2019, over 200 terrorists have been gunned down, including over 30 foreigners, in intelligence-driven precise operations by security forces.

According to initial investigations by the J&K Police, the terrorists crossed the International Border in Jammu and were met by a courier in a truck at a pre-designated spot on the national highway south of Samba.

Also read: Foiled Pakistan’s bid to push 300 terrorists into India, says BSF

The truck was supposed to ferry them to Kashmir but was stopped at the Ban toll naka in Jammu, based on specific inputs generated by intelligence agencies. When the police tried to check the truck, the terrorists opened fire, leading to two injuries among the policemen. In the gunfight that followed, all four terrorists were killed.

“It has been clear for some time that Pakistani agencies have been disconcerted by the lack of disruption in Kashmir following the constitutional changes of August 5, 2019. Ever since, there have been desperate attempts by Pakistan to use terrorists to strike at vulnerable and soft targets like political leaders and civilians. All such attempts have been successfully thwarted with the cooperation of the people of J&K,” the MHA official said.

Medicines recovered from the terrorists include painkillers, antibiotics to fight diarrhoea, Unani medicines, injections and surgical gauze. They have all been manufactured by Pakistani companies such as Lahore Medical Instruments Pvt Ltd (Kasur), Qarshi Industries (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Sami Pharmaceuticals (Karachi), Rehman Rainbow Pvt Ltd (Lahore) and Sanofi-Aventis Pakistan Ltd (Karachi).

Intelligence officials say that apart from being an attempt to sabotage the electoral exercise underway in the region, the aborted attack may also be a diversionary tactic by the Pakistani army and ISI chiefs, under pressure from Opposition parties in the country, to bring the focus back on Kashmir.

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