Pulwama Bomber Also Helped LeT Top Commander Naveed Jatt Escape
Within 15 seconds of convoy commander Assistant Commandant Junaid Gul driving past the Kral Morh intersection, a Scorpio from the opposite direction swerved to the right and rammed into a bus with a deafening explosion. The incident took place at Lethapora, on the four-lane Jammu-Srinagar national highway, 20 km short of Srinagar at 3.15 pm on Thursday, 14 February.
The bus, carrying over 40 unarmed personnel of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and two armed guards, was the fourth vehicle in the Srinagar-bound convoy. One sub inspector of the road opening party (ROP) from CRPF 110th battalion, headquartered yards away on the highway, was seen attempting to prevent the Scorpio.
He said it was possibly for the first time that even an autopsy could not be conducted. According to him, the suicide bomber’s Scorpio and the fourth bus of the convoy were reduced to pieces. Meanwhile, one truck and one mini-bus of the 78-vehicle paramilitary convoy also suffered massive damage.
Who Did It?
While the authorities were groping in the dark, ‘Afzal Guru Squad’ of the Pakistan-based jihadist organisation, Jaish-e-Mohammad, flashed on social media that its ‘fidayeen’ cadre, Adil Ahmad Dar alias Waqas Commando of Gondbagh, Pulwama, had carried out the attack and destroyed “several vehicles” of the CRPF convoy.
Officials, not inclined to be on record, maintained that the security forces and intelligence agencies had intercepted communications between different guerrilla commanders suggesting possibility of “a major terrorist strike”.
However, all the security and intelligence agencies ignored the intercepts as they believed that the terror strikes had been planned for the execution anniversaries of the JKLF leader Maqbool Bhat and Afzal Guru, falling on 11 and 9 February respectively.
Interestingly, according to some reports in media, Jaish had assigned the task of ‘avenging’ the killing of supremo Masood Azhar’s relatives, Talha Rashid and Usman Haider, to a fresh suicide bomber and expert of fabricating and detonating improved explosive devices in January this year.
Adil Dar, in the video, is seen claiming that his suicide mission had the purpose of taking revenge of the Jaish supremo’s slain relatives Talha Rashid and Usman Haider. He pays tributes to the three-odd Kashmiri ‘fidayeen’ who got killed in two major suicide strikes in the last 18 years.
It failed to cause any damage to the troops on duty. Manzoor Baba of Drabgam and Fardeen Khanday of Tral (Pulwama), son of a police constable, were among the three militants killed in a fidayeen attack on a CRPF formation at Lethapora, Awantipora, on 1 January 2018. Five CRPF men also died in that attack.
Adil Dar also refers to Jaish’s major terror attacks – the hijacking of IC-814 flight from Kathmandu to Kandahar, an attack on the Indian Parliament and an attack on District Police Lines Pulwama. Jaish is also responsible for a suicide mission targeting the Badami Bagh Army formation, besides the fidayeen strikes at Tanghdar, Nagrota, Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, Brigade headquarters of Uri and a Border Security Force camp near Srinagar Airport.
He also speaks of several IED attacks on Army’s Caspers and target killing of officers, claiming that all these attacks were part of Jaish’s mission of Ghazwatul Hind —“an operation to conquer whole of India and call for prayers from the lofty minarets of Babri Masjid”.
Significantly again, Jaish’s portal had in the recent past, announced to cause Somalia-type strikes on the vehicles and convoys of the Indian security forces in Kashmir.
They seem to have chosen a spot which breaks the speed of vehicles at the top of a slope on the highway. Remarkably, Lethapora is within the two kilometer radius of the Army’s counterinsurgency divisional headquarters of South Kashmir, Victor Force.
The Army and CRPF are known to have put in place two rings of ROP as usual immediately after the convoy crossed Jawahar Tunnel into the Valley. Inquiries reveal that the convoy had lifted the CRPF men from three different transit camps and training centres near Waves Mall, Jammu, Group Centre at Ban Talab and Dharti Darovar, Nagrota. That is why there was such a confusion, and nobody was certain about the identification of the personnel killed.
Officials in the offices of CRPF’s IG Srinagar, Ravideep Singh Sahi, and IG Operations (Kashmir), Zulfikar Hassan, toss the ball to each other. One of the IGPs is said to have been responsible for ensuring safe passage of the convoy, but the attack happened in the jurisdiction of the other. Neither of the two officers, nor even Special DG J&K Zone, VSK Kaumudi, was available to take questions due to the visit of the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
Officials maintained that Jammu-based 160 battalion was the nodal agency for the convoy’s smooth passage from Jammu to Srinagar. Responsibility of providing the internal ring of ROP lies with 137 Bn (Udhampur), 84 Bn (Ramban), 24 Bn (Banihal) and 110 Bn (Lethapora).
The Deadly Indoctrination
Residents of Pulwama insist that Adil Dar was a highly-indoctrinated militant who believed that the militants of Jaish and other jihadist outfits would one day force India to withdraw its troops from Kashmir. “He even believed that the guerrillas would conquer whole of India and establish the Islamic State”, said a youth of his village on condition of anonymity.
He claimed that three young militants of Pulwama—Adil Ahmad Dar, Hilal Ahmad Wani and Samir Ahmad—had helped the dreaded Pakistani commander of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba Naveed Jhaat escape from detention after he managed to receive a pistol and shot dead both the policemen escorting him at SMHS Hospital of Srinagar on 6 February 2018.
Two days before Adil died in the car bomb blast, Hilal got killed in an encounter with security forces at Ratnipora, Pulwama. Samir is reportedly active and underground.
“But don’t see blood alone in Pulwama,” another youth cautioned. “The CRPF doctor, who provided medical treatment to these CRPF men and made frantic efforts to save the lives of the injured on Thursday, also happens to be a resident of Pulwama. He lives just three miles from Adil Dar’s residence.”
(The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. He can be reached @ahmedalifayyaz. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)