Security forces foiled Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM)’s terror plot to wreak “major havoc” and target “grassroots level” democratic exercises in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday, a day after four suspected infiltrators were gunned down in a three-hour encounter on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway.
Modi held a review meeting with home minister Amit Shah, National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and top intelligence officials to take stock of the security situation in the Union Territory, where investigators said that the Jaish plan had a dual objective: to carry out a strike on the 12th anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and to fan fear ahead of the upcoming local body polls in the region.
“Neutralising 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,” Modi tweeted after the review meeting.
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“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,” he added, referring to the district development council (DDC) elections, which will be held from November 28 to December 22.
The four Jaish terrorists, believed to be Pakistani nationals, had sneaked into India from the Samba sector in the early hours of Thursday along with a huge consignment of arms and ammunition, including six AK-56 rifles, five AK-47 rifles, three pistols, 16 AK magazines, a packet of RDX, 20 Chinese hand grenades, six UBGL grenades and 20 kgs of explosive, according to security officials in J&K who did not want to be named.
Acting on intelligence inputs, security forces intercepted the truck ferrying the terrorists to the Kashmir Valley around 4.50am at Ban toll plaza near Nagrota in Jammu district. The terrorists were shot dead in the gun battle that followed. Two security officials suffered injuries in the operation. They are said to be stable. The driver of the truck is on the run.
“A few days ago, (Jaish founder Masood Azhar’s brother) Abdul Rauf Asghar aka Rauf Lala was seen across the International Border in Shakargarh area of Narowal district. The area has launch pads (to push terrorists into India),” said one of the officials cited above, requesting anonymity.
Intelligence agencies had warned of a possible infiltration bid and a major terror attack on November 26 (coinciding with the 2008 Mumbai attacks and just before the beginning of the local body elections), this official said. He said that the Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were ready.
The truck that was carrying the terrorists had a fake number plate, according to the officials who have identified the vehicle. It was spotted at 8.31pm on November 1 at Lakhanpur (in Kathua district bordering Punjab) and was headed for Punjab. It returned (to Lakhanpur) with rice grains around 10.33am on November 9, they added.
The truck was not seen on the highway from November 10 to November 18. On November 19, it was seem in Samba district on the Pathankot-Jammu highway at 3.43am, where it paid toll tax, the officials said. It reached the Ban toll plaza, the site of the encounter, around 4.45am via Bajalta Chowk on Sidhra by-pass of Jammu district, according to the investigators.
“The driver fled from the spot as security personnel approached the vehicle; they came under heavy fire,” the official cited above said.
According to investigators, the terrorists were asked to surrender but they fired at the forces and threw grenades at them. The truck, loaded with rice sacks, caught fire during the encounter. As guns fell silent, the bodies of the terrorists were recovered from inside the truck. Officials said that medicines with Pakistani markings found on the terrorists proved they infiltrated from across the border.
“These terrorists usually use rivulets and marshy land along the 198-km International Border in the winters, when fog reduces visibility, to sneak into the Jammu region,” an Indian Army official who did not want to be named said.
“Once into the Indian territory, it is not a big deal for these terrorists, trained in guerrilla warfare, to cover the distance from the International border to Jammu-Pathankot highway (10-15km),” this official added, pointing out that they also get help from sleeper cells on the Indian side.
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