Jammu Heavily Fortified, Terrorists Chose Soft Target in Gurdaspur
Terrorists took Gurdaspur -- and Punjab -- by total surprise after deliberately avoiding Jammu, reports Vipin Pubby
The terror attack in Gurdaspur in Punjab, which has led to over a dozen casualties, including that of the district superintendent of police, was evidently aimed at a soft target and to avoid the highly fortified Jammu region.
Gurdaspur is barely 10 kms as the crow flies from the India-Pakistan international border and security in Punjab has been lax in view of the fact that there has been no terrorist attack in the state over the last over two decades.
- Gurdaspur terror attack evidently aimed at a soft target and to avoid the highly fortified Jammu region
- Security in Punjab has been lax in view of the fact that there has been no terrorist attack in the state over the last two decades
- Intelligence sources say that the route followed by the terrorists was possibly through the Ravi and some rivulets which crisscross the border
- High levels of security along the border in the Jammu region, with Army and BSF check posts at distances ranging from 500 metres to a kilometre
Intelligence sources say that the route for the terrorists from across the border was possibly through the Ravi and some rivulets which crisscross the International Border. Ravi and its rivulets remain generally dry or have poor flow throughout the year but have been in spate these days due to monsoon.
It is very difficult to keep a close vigil along the riverine border unlike the land border which is fenced and fortified. Besides, there is extremely high security along the border in the Jammu region, with Army and BSF check posts at distances ranging from 500 metres to a kilometre. However, security is lax on the left bank of the river towards Punjab.
Terrorists Avoided Hiranagar
Sources also rule out the possibility of the terrorists having entered from the Hiranagar sector as it makes little sense for them to travel south rather than get deeper into Jammu and Kashmir. If they had entered from Hiranagar, they would have had to cross the highly secure Lakhanpur inter-state border if they were travelling by road or would have had to cross the Ravi twice, which does not make sense.
Going by initial reports, the terrorists may have wanted to move towards the national highway, connecting J&K with the rest of the country, and reach either Pathankot or the major Army cantonement at Mamun. Their unsuccessful attempt to board a bus and the resulting firing may have pushed them to seek a soft target before Indian security agencies could get alerted.
They subsequently hijacked a Maruti Alto car and drove close to the Dinanagar police station. Since the aim of the terrorists from across the border is to gain maximum publicity by holding off the security forces as long as they can, as also to attack security personnel, they perhaps thought it best to hole up in the police station which had just one entry point.
The site of the encounter, the Dinanagar police station, is located about 15 kilometres from Gurdaspur towards Pathankot.
A Second Group?
The recovery of five explosive devices from the railway track near Dinanagar point to the fact that either the terrorists had moved into the area the previous night and planted these devices themselves or that there was another group which had planted the explosives on a railway bridge to engineer simultaneous blasts with the attack.
There is speculation about the terrorists wanting to target Amarnath pilgrims but it appears unlikely as the site of the attack is not on the main route followed by the yatris from across the country to Jammu and Kashmir. Even speculation that it had to do something with Yakub Memon’s mercy plea pending in the Supreme Court seems far-fetched.
It is unlikely that the security forces would be able to apprehend any of the attackers alive as they are highly motivated and come prepared to attain what they call ‘martyrdom’. However, clues found at the scene of the attack and interception of wireless chatter in the area may provide some information on their masters.
(The writer is a senior journalist based in Chandigarh.)
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