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Nagrota Encounter: How Terrorists Are Upping Their Game in Kashmir

It was repeat of the operation in which three infiltrated terrorists were killed on the same highway in Sept 2018.

Published
India
5 min read
Security personnel along with their dogs inspect the site of encounter at Nagrota toll plaza.
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A chance encounter, in which three Pakistani terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammad got killed on Friday, 31 January, at Nagrota, on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, has surprised the security establishment in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir for a host of reasons. It was replication of the operation in which three freshly infiltrated terrorists had been killed at Jhajjar Kotli, a few miles away on the same highway in September 2018.

Three persons arrested during the operation on Friday include Sameer Ahmad Dar of Gundibagh, Pulwama, who was ferrying the terror group from Jammu to Srinagar in his truck, JK03F-1478, along with a huge consignment of arms and ammunition.

The long list of recoveries includes five AK rifles, one MP-5 sniper, four pistols, hand grenades, RDX, GPS, satellite phones, radio sets and wire-cutters, which, for the officials, is an indication of a fidayeen attack on some security establishment.

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Steel Core Ammunition to Pierce Bulletproof Vehicles

The Quint has learned from highly-placed official sources that the seizure also includes steel core ammunition that would pass through level-3 protection of the bulletproof vehicles currently used by the top category politicians, Police officers and the government functionaries including Lieutenant Governor and his advisors.

“Previously the ammunition that could pierce our BP vests had been recovered after a fidayeen attack on a CRPF camp at Awantipora in January 2018. It’s for the first time that the ammunition to pierce our BP vehicles has been seized”, said an official. He disclosed that this group of militants had also delivered a powerful improvised explosive device (IED) for the purpose of causing a possible fidayeen attack around Nagrota—headquarters of Army’s 16 Corps.

The New Route of Infiltration

The Quint has learned from highly-placed official sources that in a high level meeting presided over by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah in 2019, an officer of the rank of Additional Director General in the Jammu and Kashmir Police had emphasised that almost entire infiltration of terrorists was happening through the porous International Border from Akhnoor in Jammu to Amritsar in Punjab. It had visibly irked a senior representative of Border Security Force (BSF). Government did little to address the fresh security concerns.

In almost all the encounters after 2016, it had been noticed that that the militants infiltrated from Pakistan either in Jammu or on the border in Punjab. Friday’s encounter has established that the infiltration of the Pakistani cadres of Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba was unabated via Jammu even as it had, to a large extent, stopped through the LoC in Kashmir.

Several Militants in Pulwama Attacker’s Family

Significantly, the driver of the truck Sameer Ahmad Dar, happens to be a cousin of the Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist Adil Ahmad Dar who had killed over 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in an unprecedented fidayeen attack on their convoy at Lethapora, Awantipora, on Jammu-Srinagar highway, on 14 February 2019. Reports not confirmed by officials said that two more persons apprehended at Nagrota include Sameer’s yet another brother.

Officials just confirmed that Sameer had been carrying infiltrators from Jammu to the Valley but it was not immediately clear as to how many of the militants had succeeded to reach their Kashmir destinations with his assistance. This is all now under investigation.
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Adil Dar’s and Sameer Dar’s another cousin, whose name is Sameer Ahmad Dar, son of Mohammad Subhan Dar of Gundibagh, Pulwama, is reportedly an active militant of Jaish-e-Mohammad in Pulwama-Awantipora belt. His brother, Manzoor Ahmad Dar, who was a militant of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, has reportedly died in an encounter with security forces in the year 2016.

Sources said that Sameer’s another brother Tauseef Dar had also joined Jaish-e-Mohammad with his brother and cousin but he returned to his home within a few weeks. Some believe he has surrendered while others maintained that he had been arrested and subsequently released by security forces.

Of the five militants, who have been killed in the two encounters in Tral and Khrew in Awantipora Police District in the last one week, three have surfaced as Pakistani cadres of Jaish-e-Mohammad.

“We believe at least 20 foreigners have reinforces the Jaish ranks in South Kashmir in the last six months. Most of them have infiltrated through Jammu”, said a senior official. While the International Border has been porous notwithstanding barbed-wire fencing, security forces have detected as many as seven underground cross-border tunnels in the last few years in Jammu’s RS Pora, Samba, Akhnoor and Hira Nagar.

How Driver Sameer Carried Terrorists in His Truck

Officials associated with the investigated revealed to The Quint that the driver Sameer had reached Rajasthan last week and carried a truckload of pomegranates from Jaipur to Amritsar in Punjab. On 29 January he loaded his truck with Plaster of Paris and some other goods at Amritsar and left for Jammu.

He crossed Lakhanpur Toll Plaza on the J&K entry point on the same day. He is believed to have waited for the infiltrators somewhere in Hira Nagar. The militants, who are believed to have infiltrated via Dialachak, boarded Sameer’s truck somewhere in Hira Nagar. Much like in the past, they remained hidden in the cabins behind the driver’s seat.

Officials said a routine Police naka stopped the truck for checking a little short of Bann Toll Plaza in Nagrota. As the militants found themselves intercepted, they jumped out.

One militant died in the beginning of the shootout and one constable was injured but he chased the fleeing militants and three others. Sameer’s phone fell on the road which was seized by the injured constable. It helped the Police to learn about the driver and his associates.

Helicopters and drones were requisitioned from Army’s Northern Command at Udhampur which detected the movement of the fleeing militants and their associates. One of them was captured at the toll plaza and two others in the shrubs around. Both the militants were shot dead in the second shootout.

Recent Encounters on Jammu-Srinagar Highway in Jammu

A large number of suicide attacks have taken place since 1999 on different camps and installations of security forces in Jammu. In recent times, two officers were killed and seven left injured in a suicide attack on an Army camp at Nagrota on 28 November 2016. National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed a chargesheet after completing its investigation on 20 November 2018.

The investigation revealed that four local Kashmiri JeM members, namely Mohammad Ashiq Baba, Syed Munir-ul-Hassan Qadri, Tariq Ahmad Dar and Ashraf Hamid Khandey had facilitated a group of three heavily armed Pakistani terrorists and transported them from International Border in Samba-Kathua sector to Hotel Jagdamba in Jammu and subsequently to Nagrota in their vehicles for the attack on on Officers' Mess Complex, 166 Medium Regiment of Indian Army in Nagrota Cantonment. Three Pakistani militants of JeM,Khalid, Noman and Aadil, carried out the attack on the camp. They were killed in the encounter.

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Six soldiers, including two officers, and and a soldier’s father were killed and several injured in another suicide attack on a camp of 36 Brigade at Sunjwan in Jammu on 10 February 2018. During the operation, security forces shot dead all three terrorists who were believed to be JeM cadres from Pakistan.

On 12 September 2018, a Police naka intercepted a Kashmir-bound truck at Jhajjar Kotli on Jammu-Srinagar highway. Three militants hiding in a cargo cabin jumped out while firing indiscriminately. One civilian got injured and the militants and their over-ground associates managed to escape.

However, the on-ground workers (OGWs), identified as Muhammad Iqbal Rather of Fultipora Budgam (a BSc Nursing student at SKIMS) and the truck driver Riyaz Ahmed Nengroo of Hajin Bala Pulwama, were apprehended. Next day all the three JeM militants were killed in an encounter when they were found hiding in a resident’s house, away from the site of the first shootout. NIA has completed the investigation and filed challan on 11 March 2019.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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