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Jammu & Kashmir’s elite anti-terror unit gets full-time head after a gap of 5 months

Appointment of Iftikhar Talib to head the Special Operations Group comes amid a spate of minority killings in Srinagar that took security forces by surprise.

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Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Police’s elite anti-terrorism unit Special Operations Group (SOG), whose headquarters is dubbed ‘Cargo’, has finally got a full-time Superintendent of Police to head it after a gap of nearly five months.

The appointment of Iftikhar Talib as SP (PC) Police Component, to head the elite unit this week, comes after a spate of killings of minorities in Srinagar that had taken security forces by surprise.

The last SP to lead the elite unit was Tahir Ashraf, who moved to another position in May this year.

Since then, the Cargo was being handled as an additional charge by another officer, said sources in the security establishment.

Talib, an officer who has extensive experience in anti-terror operations and has been part of the SOG earlier in other capacities, was on deputation to Ladakh and took over the elite unit Saturday.

SOG personnel lead anti-terror operations in J&K, both in terms of actual encounters and generating intelligence.

Sources in the defence and security establishment expressed surprise at the fact that the unit did not have a full-time SP to lead the operations for nearly five months.

“The SOG was being handled as additional charge and they have been on the job. However, appointment of a full time SP will ensure that work is coordinated, smoother and organised. It is a surprise that there was no full time SP till now,” a source said.

Some sources, meanwhile, argued that terrorists have managed to carry out the attacks in Srinagar because of a sense of “normalcy” that had crept in.

“There are multiple ways of ensuring that terror incidents are down. One is to get specific inputs of the presence of a terrorist in an area following which a targeted operation is carried out and the terrorist is neutralised. Developing intelligence requires sustained work. The other is to build up pressure with sustained search operations, checking to ensure that the terrorist is never settled and is on the move,” a source explained.

Also read: Blood stains, bullet marks tell story of killed Sikh principal, Hindu teacher in J&K school

What is SOG?

The SOG, also known as the Special Task Force, is more a volunteer force drawn from the regular Jammu and Kashmir Police, which has over 1,000 personnel who work round the clock to carry out operations and generate intelligence.

Operationally, Cargo, a name drawn from the building that once housed the Indian Airlines cargo in Srinagar, comes directly under the Inspector General of Police in J&K who reports to the Director General of Police.

The Cargo unit is divided into special teams, each catering to various aspects of the anti-terror operations, from phone tracking to monitoring of social media and focused human intelligence.

According to sources in the defence establishment, while the Army leads anti-terror operations, except in the city of Srinagar, a large share of the intelligence comes from the Jammu and Kashmir personnel, which is primarily the SOG.

In every district of the state, the SOG is headed by deputy superintendent of police (operations), but their headquarter is ‘Cargo’.

As reported in 2019, each district in Kashmir has a minimum of one or two SOG units, depending on the level of militant activities. The districts that see a high number of militant strikes have four to 10 units.

One of the most dreaded units in J&K, there have also been a number of allegations against it as well.

“I wanted to ensure that Cargo, a name which sent chills down people’s spines earlier, becomes a centre for excellence and I guess that dream has been realised now,” DGP Dilbag Singh had said in September 2020, after the completion of an operation.

Also read: Bihar man lost Kolkata job, sold chaat in Kashmir, killed by terrorists, cremated without family


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