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The IED twist to Kashmir terrorism — ‘worst fears’ of security forces have come true

Attack on CRPF convoy in Pulwama is something that the security establishment had long feared. More than terrorists, they say, IEDs are their biggest enemies.

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New Delhi: Thursday’s Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack on a CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district, which killed at least 39 personnel, is deadly evidence of terror taking a sinister turn in Kashmir.

The strike, the biggest on security forces in the decades-long conflict in the Valley, was caused by a suicide attack in which an SUV laden with 350 kg of explosives was driven into the convoy, followed by grenades and gunshots.

Over the last two years, central security agencies and the local police had learned of a Pakistani plot to take violence to the next level by using IEDs in the Valley. A number of intelligence inputs had talked about the emerging threat of IEDs.

Also read: 39 jawans killed after terrorists bomb CRPF convoy on Kashmir highway

Security forces had feared a big hit

In November 2016, security forces were targeted by a Naxal-style IED attack using command-wire technique. Following this, experts from the Institute of IED Management (IIM) in Pune were rushed to Kashmir to sensitise the troops against them.

Sources said that some of the Pakistani terrorists who had entered the Valley over the last two years were trained especially in IEDs, and their job was to ensure that local terrorists were taught how to make and use them.

Over the last one-and-a-half years, a number of small IED attacks targeting security forces were carried out in Kashmir. Security establishment sources had maintained even then that these were just “trial balloons”, and had feared that a big attack was in the offing.

They had identified Zeenat-ul-Islam, who was associated with the terror group Al-Badr, as an expert at handling IEDs. He is said to have played a crucial role in the spread of IED tactics. The forces had heaved a sigh of relief when he was killed in an encounter on 13 January.

Sources also said that security forces had arrested individuals from whom IED making plans and materials were discovered. In fact, a note on 6 February had warned CRPF DIGs to sanitise their areas, as the use of IEDs was feared.

Significantly, in December, the JeM had sent in Afghan war veteran terrorist Abdul Rasheed Ghazi, an IED expert.

Top sources in the security establishment had told ThePrint that Ghazi has been handpicked by Azhar to avenge the killing of his nephews, Usman and Talha Rasheed — shot dead by security forces in the Valley — and to train local recruits.

Security sources said that today’s attack using a car laden with explosives was a signature of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Also read: Kashmir suicide bomber a class 11 dropout who ‘trained 6 months for CRPF attack’

IEDs biggest enemy, not terrorists

However, the forces’ worst fears came true Thursday.

“Today’s attack is what we had feared. The IED game is a dangerous one,” said a senior officer who did not wish to be identified.

The officer added that the biggest enemy of the security forces in Naxal-infested areas and the Northeast weren’t the terrorists, but the IEDs planted by them.

This article has been updated to include the intelligence input from 6 February.

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