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    Pakistan rejects India’s charge on Pulwama terrorist attack

    Pakistan rejects India's charge on Pulwama terrorist attack

    Pakistan’s Foreign Office, after keeping quiet for hours, issued a statement after midnight. PTI

    Islamabad, February 15

    Pakistan has condemned the terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district and said it is a matter of grave concern even as it rejected India pointing out Islamabad’s link to the incident without investigations.

    At least 42 CRPF personnel were killed and five injured on Thursday in one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir when a Jaish suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into their bus in Pulwama district.

    Pakistan’s Foreign Office, after keeping quiet for hours, issued a statement after midnight.

    The attack in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir “is a matter of grave concern,” it said.

    “We have always condemned heightened acts of violence in the Valley,” the FO said.

    Pakistan also rejected that it was in any way involved in the attack.

    “We strongly reject any insinuation by elements in the Indian government and media circles that seek to link the attack to the State of Pakistan without investigations,” the FO added.

    India on Thursday slammed Pakistan over the Pulwama terror attack carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and asked the neighbouring country to stop supporting terrorists and dismantle terror infrastructure operating from its soil.

    India also strongly reiterated its appeal to all members of the international community to support the proposal to list terrorists, including JeM chief Masood Azhar, as a designated terrorist under the 1267 Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council, and to ban terrorist organisations operating from territories controlled by Pakistan.

    The White House asked Pakistan to immediately end “support” and “safe haven” to all terror groups as it strongly condemned the Pulwama terrorist attack.

    “The United States calls on Pakistan to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil, whose only goal is to sow chaos, violence, and terror in the region,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a late night statement on Thursday.

    Condemning the attack, the US State Department said in a statement that it was “resolutely committed” to working with the Indian government to combat terrorism in all its forms. PTI

     


    Won’t forgive, will avenge Pulwama deaths: CRPF

    Won't forgive, will avenge Pulwama deaths: CRPF

    he toll in the attack has risen to 40 even as a full Court of Inquiry has been ordered by the CRPF headquarters in Delhi. Photo Credit: Twitter

    New Delhi, February 15

    The CRPF on Friday said it won’t “forget and forgive” but will “avenge” the death of 40 of its personnel in one of the worst terror attacks on its troops in Jammu and Kashmir.

    The country’s largest paramilitary force put out a tweet from its official handle saying, “We will not forget, we will not forgive.”

    “We salute our martyrs of Pulwama attack and stand with the families of our martyr brothers. This heinous attack will be avenged,” it said in the social media post.

    The force said that “in memory of the martyrs of the terrorist attack”, all formations of the Central Reserve Police Force observed two minutes of silence and the force flag will fly half mast on Friday.

    The toll in the attack has risen to 40 even as a full Court of Inquiry has been ordered by the CRPF headquarters in Delhi.

    The over 3-lakh personnel strong paramilitary force is deployed as the lead combat unit against terrorism and insurgency in the Kashmir Valley and has deployed about 60,000 personnel (as part of 60 battalions) in the internal security grid of the state. — PTI

     


    Rajnath Singh helps carry coffin of slain CRPF jawan

    Rajnath Singh helps carry coffin of slain CRPF jawan

    Home Minister Rajnath Singh and J&K DGP Dilbag Singh carry the coffin of a slain CRPF jawan during a wreath-laying ceremony in Budgam on Friday. Twitter/PTI

    Srinagar, February 15

    Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday helped carry the coffin of a slain CRPF jawan after he laid a wreath on the mortal remains of the troops, who were killed in a terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir, officials said.

    Shortly after arriving from Delhi, the Home Minister attended a solemn function here where the remains of 40 CRPF personnel were kept in coffins, draped with Tricolour.

    Singh helped carry the coffin of a slain CRPF jawan before it was flown out of Jammu and Kashmir in a special aircraft, an official present at the function said.

    The Home Minister, Governor Satya Pal Malik, Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, CRPF Director-General R R Bhatnagar, Jammu and Kashmir DGP Dilbagh Singh besides others attended the wreath-laying ceremony.

    “The nation will not forget the supreme sacrifice of our brave CRPF jawans. I have paid my last respects to the martyrs of Pulwama. The sacrifice will not go in vain,” Singh said.

    The dignitaries stood in silence till the coffins were loaded in a truck which went to the Srinagar airport, the official said.

    Forty CRPF personnel were killed and five injured on Thursday in one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir when a Jaish-e-Mohammad suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into their bus in Pulwama district.

    The bus was part of a convoy of 78 vehicles CRPF travelling from Jammu to Srinagar.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said those responsible for the attack will pay “a very heavy price” and security forces will be given a free hand to deal with terrorists.

    In a hard-hitting speech, Modi said the “blood of the people is boiling” and forces behind the act of terrorism will be definitely be punished. PTI


    Kangra CRPF man among J-K martyrs

    Shimla, February 14

    A CRPF jawan, Tilak Raj, hailing from the Jawali area of Kangra, was among those killed in the militant attack in Srinagar. The 30-year-old, hailing from Dhewa village, is survived by his wife Savitri Devi.

    Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur has deputed Civil Supplies Minister Kishan Kapoor and Jawali MLA Arjun to be with the family in this hour of grief.

    The Chief Minister said that those involved in this incident would not go unpunished. He also prayed to the Almighty to give peace to the departed souls and strength to the bereaved families to bear this irreparable loss. — T


    Attack worse than Uri, India will have to act, say experts

    NEW DELHI: The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) – the highest decision-making body on security chaired by the Prime Minister – will meet on Friday morning to discuss India’s response to the attack on the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Jammu and Kashmir in which 44 soldiers were killed.

    Heavily armed Indian commandos crossed the Line of Control (LoC) and carried out a coordinated raid hitting terror camps collated with Pakistani Army establishment – commonly known as surgical strikes — after 18 Indian soldiers were killed in the Uri Brigade headquarters attack in 2016. Similarly, in 2015 when rebels in Manipur ambushed an Indian army convoy, Indian commandos crossed into Myanmar and destroyed militant camps.

    “This is much bigger than the Uri Brigade headquarters attack. No terror organisation claimed responsibility for the Uri attack. Now, however, a Pakistan based terror organisation – the Jaish-eMohammed [JeM] – has taken responsibility for this attack. Pakistan will be under pressure, but my hunch is that New Delhi will have to act and retaliate. What will be the form and shape of the retaliation will be the prerogative of the government,” former Northern Army Commander, General DS Hooda, said.

    General Hooda played a role in the surgical strikes that followed the Uri attack.

    “Pakistan hasn’t not stopped infiltration or funding terror organizations, Ceasefire violations too have gone up. India’s response will take all this into account and also the internal situation in Jammu and Kashmir,” General Hooda added.

    Others experts agreed with Hooda. “We should not respond in hurry. We need to look at how our convoys are moving and whether we need to rework our quick-reaction teams. And, also devise a response to this emerging threat of vehicles being used for suicide bombing,” Former Western Army Commander, Genenral K J Singh said. “Our response should be at time and place of our choosing. Decisionmakers should not come under pressure from either media or social media. The retribution/ retaliation should be firm and with minimum noise,” General Singh added.

    How Masood Azhar is waging war on India

    NEWDELHI:When Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar emerged from years of seclusion in January 2014 to call for the resumption of jihad against India, alarm bells went off in New Delhi.

    Since then, Azhar’s group has been blamed for some of the most brazen and devastating terrorist assaults in India, including the September 2016 attack on an Indian Army facility at Uri that killed 19 and Thursday’s suicide car bombing on a security forces convoy that claimed the lives of at least 43 troopers.

    After remaining mostly confined to his base at Bahawalpur in Pakistan’s most populous province of Punjab for years, Azhar addressed a rally of his jihadi supporters at Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, on January 26, 2014. Even then, he wasn’t seen in public – Azhar made the speech over phone.

    The message, however, went out crystal clear. “There are 313 fidayeen in this gathering and if a call is given the number will go up to 3,000,” he was quoted as saying at the time, as he called for the resumption of the so-called “holy war” against India.

    The rally, attended by thousands, was ostensibly organised to launch a book by Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri hanged for his role in the 2001 attack on India’s Parliament, which too was blamed on the JeM and the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

    Such a massive gathering couldn’t have been organised within PoK without the sanction of Pakistan’s all-powerful military, experts said at the time. Azhar’s comeback was followed by an uptick in fund-raising and recruitment by JeM in Pakistan’s Punjab province and louder antimandu India rhetoric by the group’s leadership.

    Many in India’s security and foreign policy establishment haven’t forgotten the ignominy of watching Azhar create the JeM after he was released in 1999 from an Indian prison along with two other terrorists in exchange for the passengers of an Indian airliner hijacked by Pakistanbacked operatives from Kathto Kandahar.

    JeM was banned in Pakistan in 2002 by then president Pervez Musharraf but it has continued its activities virtually unfettered in recent years and it has continued to publish jihadi literature such as the “Zarb-e-Momin” newspaper. The group was among terror organisations cited by India and its Western allies when they pressed the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to put Pakistan on a “grey list” for failing to crack down on terror financing.

    Even more worrying for India has been the blocking by China of efforts by New Delhi and several Western governments to sanction Azhar at the UN Security Council. Since 2016, China, a vetowielding member of the Security Council, has used what is known as a “technical hold” to stymie efforts by countries such as India, the US, Britain and France to sanction Azh ar under Resolution 1267 for his links with al-Qaeda.

    Leading strategic affairs analyst Brahma Chellaney said China had persisted with this course of action as it could use Azhar as leverage without any cost and because India “had not done anything in response”. He said, “In a sense, the deaths of the CRFP men in Thursday’s attack can be laid at the door of China, because it is protecting Pakistan and the man in-charge of JeM.”

    “There is absolutely no cost for China in continuing with this exercise and the Indian side doesn’t speak up on this issue,” he said, adding India should also tread cautiously on the JeM’s claim for Thursday’s attack through a video featuring the purported bomber.

    “This claim could have been made to deflect attention from the LeT, which is an extension of the Inter-Services Intelligence. The JeM is sometimes used as a diversion,” he added.


    Suicide bombs a signature move of Jaish-e-Mohammad

    NEW DELHI: Masood Azhar, the head of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), responsible for the attack on the CRPF convoy, has had India in his sights for nearly three decades. He formed the terror organisation within a few months of his release at Kandahar on December 31, 1999. Azhar was flown to freedom in a special plane in exchange for the passengers on board an Indian passenger plane hijacked from Nepal.

    REUTERS■ Soldiers examine the debris after a terrorist attacked a CRPF convoy in Pulwama on Thursday.

    Azhar made his presence felt within a few months. On 20 April 2000, the JeM carried out the first suicide bombing in Kashmir, exploding a bomb in an Indian army barracks, killing five soldiers. Azhar, in fact, is the father of fidayeen attacks, and he has the dubious distinction of introducing them in the Valley where the gun first surfaced in 1989.

    The second suicide attack was even bigger. On October 1, 2001, three Jaish militants carried out an attack on the Jammu and Kashmir state legislative assembly in Srinagar, using a Tata Sumo loaded with explosives. As many as 38 people were killed in an attack that shook the security establishment. Then too, the terror group claimed responsibility and named a Pakistani national Wajahat Hussain as the suicide bomber. In Thursday’s attack, Jaish named a local, home grown militant, who is believed to have rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into the CRPF convoy carrying as many as 2500 personnel.

    The last big attack – the Jaish did not openly claim responsibility for this – was on the air force base in Pathankot in 2016. Phone calls made by the suicide bombers who infiltrated the high-security zone were tracked to the Jaish headquarter in Bahawalpur. The Narendra Modi government allowed a joint investigation team from Pakistan to visit Pathankot but according to the Dawn newspaper, the team concluded that India itself had staged the attack. The Pathankot attack led to cancellation of India-Pakistan talks and the two countries have had no formal engagement since.

    Azhar first landed in India in 1994 on a fake Portuguese passport and few know that Srinagar was not the city he first went to. He chose Lucknow as his first stop after landing at Delhi’s international airport on January 29, 1994. Reaching Ayodhya was far more important because , according to his interrogation report, the demolition of the Babri Masjid was the spark that ignited his desire for jihad.

    Protected by the deep state in Pakistan, Azhar is considered a big asset, who has escaped being proscribed by the United Nations Security Council because China has continually blocked moves to declare him a global terrorist. His terror group is also suspected to be behind the attack on an army camp in Uri that killed 19 army soldiers in 2016. The government retaliated through multiple surgical strikes across the line of control.


    HOW THE MILITANT STRIKE UNFOLDED

    The Jaish-e-Mohammad militant crashed his explosive-laden car into a CRPF convoy

    03.30am

    THURSDAY: Around 2,500 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in 78 vehicles, including buses and bullet-proof vehicles, leave Channi Rama transit in Jammu for Bakshi Stadium transit camp in Srinagar to travel further to their respective camps. The number of security personnel travelling was high as there was no traffic allowed on the Jammu-Srinagar highway for the past one week due to heavy snowfall.

    03.30pm-3.35pm

    The convoy approaches Latoomode in Awantipora of south Kashmir, when a vehicle driven by the Jaish-e-Mohammad militant Adil Ahmad Dar starts following the convoy. He apparently drives up to the highway from a road linking nearby villages to the highway.

    03.37pm

    Dar drives along with convoy for a few minutes and then

    crashes his vehicle, laden with large amounts of explosives, into unarmored bus, belonging to the 76th battalion of the force. At least 40 personnel were on board. Such was the impact that the bus turned into a mangled heap of iron. The bus was in the middle of the convoy.

    03.38pm

    An exchange of fire takes place. It is not clear whether the firing was initiated by militants, the road opening party or forces accompanying the convey. No injuries are reported.

    03.40pm

    The quick reaction team of the army reaches the spot, and takes CPPF personnel to the Army Base Hospital at Badami Bagh, a cantonment town on the outskirts of Srinagar. The entire highway is cordoned off and search operations are started.


    Local hand, foreign design in Valley attack

    Counter-terror operatives say govt was apprised about possibility of car bomb attacks, Jaish plan to “spectacularly” target forces

    From page 01 NEW DELHI: Senior government officials are concerned about the lack of action on a high-level intelligence alert on the possibility of a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) attack between Pulwama and Srinagar. They admit that it will be very difficult for India to not retaliate after Thursday’s attack in Pulwama — the worst in three decades of insurgency.

    REUTERS■ At least 44 CRPF personnel are feared dead after a Jaish suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into their bus in Pulwama district on Thursday.Counter-terrorism operatives suspect the attack was payback for the killing of JeM chief Masood Azhar’s nephew Usman Haider in an encounter in Tral last October.

    The operatives, who asked not to be identified, said the Narendra Modi government had been apprised and was concerned about the possibility of car bomb or lone wolf attacks in the hinterland.

    According to the government officials, who asked not to be identified, recent communication intercepts by intelligence agencies, coupled with a public declaration by Azhar’s younger brother Rauf Asghar that the terror outfit would “spectacularly” target the Indian security forces, and the posting of a video of a bus being blown up on the terror group’s website, all indicated a major terrorist attack. This intelligence was communicated to all internal security agencies on the eve of the attack, they added. HT couldn’t independently confirm this.

    A police alert released on February 8 said before deployment of forces the area should be sanitised as there were inputs over the possible use of IEDs.

    To be sure, analysts say, a suicide bombing that involves a large quantity of explosives and a car would have required a lot of co-ordination and planning – and would have resulted in some chatter.

    Other generic inputs circulated through the Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) warned about a possible attack as well. One alert pointed to the so-called Kashmir Day – the hanging of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat on February 9, 2013, and February 11, 1984 – and warned about a possible terror attack by JeM. On Tuesday, the local CID unit of the Jammu and Kashmir Police also warned about a possible attack.

    Although the counter-terrorism operatives do not blame the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) for moving 2,500 personnel in a convoy through the sensitive area, the worry is on how to counter Pakistan-based terrorist groups if they escalate such terror attacks to the hinterland.

    According to intelligence officials, Haider was killed in a security encounter on October 31, 2018 and IC-814 hijacker Athar Ibrahim’s other son Mohammed Umar is still stuck in the Valley. Ibrahim is Azhar’s elder brother. IC-814 was the Indian Airlines flight hijacked from Kathmandu to Kandahar in December 1999; India was forced to release three prisoners including Masood Azhar to secure the release of the passengers.

    Preliminary reports on explosive analysis at the Pulwama spot indicate that the vehicle that rammed into the CRPF convoy was laden with RDX . Tests carried out by the National Security Guard (NSG) explosives team at the spot along with other teams have indicated this. A high-level NSG team is also reaching the spot on Friday.

    “How and from where such a large quantity of explosives was gathered is a matter of investigation, but it points to a failure,” said a senior official in the security establishment who did not want to be identified.

    “There have been reports of explosives being smuggled from the quarries [in south Kashmir],” another senior official in Jammu and Kashmir said.

    At the same time, why the convoy was not adequately protected is also a question of inquiry. Officials in the security establishment are of the view the convoy was spotted soon after it moved. “It is not difficult to predict the time. Once a convoy leaves Banihal tunnel, the time is taken to reach this area, or Srinagar is predictable,” an officer said.