‘North Kashmir will again be hot in 2018’
Srinagar: The powerful Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that went off in Sopore has proven that militants have regained their striking capability, senior police officers who are part of counter-insurgency policing told Kashmir Reader.
“The deadly IED explosion indicates that the strike capability of the militants has increased to a considerable level,” a senior police officer said when asked whether militants have changed their operational strategy by using IEDs again in Kashmir.
“This also goes on to prove that militants were able to collect, manufacture, and then plant the explosive at the location where they wanted it to explode,” the officer added.
The powerful IED blast in Sopore left four policemen dead while it tore apart iron shutters of shops and broke glass windowpanes of nearby houses. The bang of the blast was such that it could be heard in a radius of three kilometres.
“Over the past many years, the pressure on militancy was such that they had lost their strike capability. That is why they could not assemble the material for the IEDs. It is really a cause of concern for us,” the police officer said.
The last IED blast in Kashmir took place in 2016 in Dadsara locality of Tral. It killed three cops and injured a sub-inspector.
“To our knowledge, there was no IED attack in 2015,” the officer said.
Soon after the Sopore IED blast, the police had claimed that the last IED explosion in Kashmir took place in the year 2015.
Senior police officers said that in recent memory, the major IED blast in Kashmir took place in 2008 in Srinagar near Narbal on the Srinagar-Baramulla road, in which nine army personnel were killed. The responsibility for the blast was taken by Hizbul Mujahideen.
“This was the only major IED attack within the Kashmir hinterland, which happened some nine years ago,” the officer said. “From then on, the militancy declined and it was more a game of survival for militants than planning IED attacks.”
Another officer, who is closely working with counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir, claimed that rather than a change in strategy, the Sopore IED blast signifies the militant resurgence.
“Initial reports suggest that this time, 5 to 6 kg of explosive material was used,” the officer said. “This means it was quite a big explosion. This also means that the militants have regained strength, both of men and material.”
The officer also said that the Sopore attack signifies that north Kashmir will come again into the limelight in 2018.
“It will be a hot year for north Kashmir,” he said.
He said that small IED blasts occurred after 2009, but they were of such low intensity that sometimes investigators mistook them as grenade explosions.
“In 2010, the then Jamiat-Ahl-e-Hadith President, Moulana Showket, was targeted with an IED,” the officer said, “but it was too small.”
“The collection of explosives, then assembling them and then planning an attack requires time and capacity. This attack in Sopore points out that very thing. They were able to plan an attack. It means they have gained strength,” he said.
The officer said that the militant group Lashkar-e-Islam led by Qayoom Najar attacked mobile towers in Srinagar in the year 2015 with very small IEDs.
“In Srinagar we were told they were grenades. However, later we recovered the batteries and came to know that the explosions were carried out by very small IEDs,” he said.
The officer said that like in previous IED explosions, the Sopore blast also seemed to be triggered by an IED detonator connected to a mobile phone.
“The militants have modified the IEDs. Earlier they would rely mostly on RDX for making an IED,” he said. “When Lashkar commander Abu Qasim came in, he tried to acquire liquid explosives. But he remained unsuccessful. The IEDs are mostly triggered by mobile phones using a number connected to the IED detonator. They do not need a normal remote control now to detonate the IED.”
The officer said that the Hizbul Mujahideen had some outstanding local experts in making IEDs, among whom Mudasir from Tral was notable in recent times. Mudasir has already been killed during an encounter with government forces.
“The map of militancy is changing due to the large number of Jaish-e-Mohammad militants who have infiltrated in Kashmir during the year 2017,” the officer said. “According to our estimates, their number is not less than 45. They have brought weapons and are better trained to launch an offensive. That is why the militant seems to have gained strength, unlike in the past one decade.”
Director General of Police (DGP) SP Vaid said in response to the question whether the Sopore IED blast signifies that militants have increased their striking capability, “IEDs were used during the 1990s as well. There was a major IED explosion in 2015.”
However, he said, “It is a matter of concern. We are working on how to deal with it.”