What we don’t know about Pulwama attack that almost brought India-Pak to war

India

In June 2019, Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy told Parliament in a written reply that “the investigation by the NIA so far has resulted in identifying the conspirators, suicide attacker and the vehicle provider.”

We know not anything substantially better today. Recently, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), whose 40 jawans were killed in the Pulwama terror attack, declined to share probe report with a Punjab-based RTI activist.

What is in public domain is that a terror attack took place at Lethpora in Pulwama district in which high grade explosives were used. Two main suspects — agencies are almost sure about their involvement — apart from the suicide bomber are dead.

The suicide bomber was identified as Adil Ahmad Dar. Needless to say he died in the terror attack. Mudasir Ahmed Khan and Sajjad Bhat were the two main suspects. They were killed in encounter with security forces — Mudasir Ahmed Khan in March 2019 and Sajjad Bhat in June 2019.

This is where the probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is stuck. The attack and suspects all are dead. Forensic probe showed that 25 kg of plastic explosives of warfare grade was sued in Pulwama terror attack.

Given that the death of main suspects and the suicide bomber has created hurdles for further NIA probe. It is not yet clearly known how so much of warfare grade ammunition reached Pulwama. It could not have been purchased through legal means or from even the black market.

Transporting it from across the border is the most likely possibility, but only over a period of time. This points to a possible intelligence failure of massive scale or gross neglect of intelligence inputs at the desk in the headquarters. But government has denied intelligence failure.

In his written reply in the Rajya Sabha, Reddy had said the Pulwama attack was not an intelligence failure. “No sir,” Reddy’s reply read to a specific question by Congress MP from Karnataka Syed Nasir Hussain, who had asked, “Whether the reasons of Pulwama terror attack was failure of intelligence?”

This means that the source of explosives used by the car-borne suicide bomber is still untraced. Many other questions such as, how the conspiracy happened, who funded it and how money changed hands remain answered. No terror attack takes place without a money trail.

So, what do we know about Pulwama and from which source?

On Valentine’s Day last year, suicide bomber Adil Ahmd Dar targetted a CRPF convoy ferrying jawans from Jammu to Srinagar near Pulwama. His identity became public after a video surfaced online in which Pkistan-bsed terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility for the attack.

The JeM is headed by Masood Azhar, a terrorist wanted by India for several terror attacks in the country. Masood Azhar is also a UN-designated global terrorist.

In the JeM video, Adil Ahmad Dar was seen holding an assault rifle in the backdrop of a black and white flag. He says in the video that by the time, people would see this visual he would be residing in heaven. The pleasure of heaven according to Islamic belief has been used by terror outfits for long to lure new recruits for suicide terror attacks.

Agencies later found that Adil Ahmad Dar had joined the Jaish in 2018. In Pulwama terror attack, he used a car that had been sold many times since 2011, the year of first sale.

Its last owner was Sajjad Bhat, killed in an encounter four months after Pulwama attack. Sajjad Bhat had purchased the car only 10 days before it was used for targetting the CRPF convoy.

The agencies could not find the engine block of the car which either blew away under the impact of explosion or was swept away by the Jhelum river flowing nearby. This could have been a crucial lead.

The NIA believes the other suspect Mudasir Ahmed Khan, killed a month after Pulwama attack, was the person who arranged explosives used in the Pulwama terror attack.

Since the agencies recovered only burnt evidence from the site of terror attack in Pulwama and no sample of explosive could be recovered, tracing the source of the bomb has proved difficult for the NIA.

With no suspect alive to act as witness, the probe practically looks stalled. There can be no credible corroboration of forensic and technical evidence gathered by the agencies. This explains why the NIA has not filed any chargesheet in the terror attack case, which virtually brought India and Pakistan to yet another war. Otherwise, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) warrants a probe agency to file chargesheet within 90 days under regular circumstances.

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