New Delhi: A Kashmir resident who allegedly helped identify a CRPF convoy as the target of the 14 February 2019 Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) attack was offered a chance to be a suicide bomber as a “reward” but turned it down, ThePrint has learnt.
According to audio notes accessed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Pakistan-based leadership of the JeM, “impressed” with the successful execution of the attack, wanted to reward Shakir Bashir, a local furniture shop owner, by picking him as the suicide bomber responsible for the next attack.
“After the attack, the JeM leadership was very happy with him and told him that they have decided to reward him by giving him an opportunity to become a fidayeen (suicide bomber) in the next attack,” a source in the NIA confirmed.
However, Bashir allegedly refused the offer because he wanted to be an “active terrorist” — involved in planning and other logistical matters — first. Bashir was arrested in February this year.
The audio notes in question, it is learnt, detail the conversations between Kashmiri JeM operatives and their Pakistan-based handlers. They are part of the charge sheet filed by the NIA on 25 August naming JeM chief Masood Azhar, his brother Abdul Rauf Asghar and 17 others for “carrying out the Pulwama attack at the behest of Pakistan”. The charge sheet has been accessed by ThePrint.
The Pulwama attack is one of the bloodiest terror strikes ever on Indian soil. Forty personnel of the CRPF were killed last February when a local JeM operative, identified as Adil Ahmad Dar, drove a vehicle packed with explosives into a CRPF convoy while it was passing through the Jammu-Kashmir national highway.
Investigations so far have revealed that the attack on the CRPF convoy may not have been the original plan of the JeM. The JeM, the NIA has found, initially wanted to attack a naka (police post). However, the plan is believed to have been aborted after the location of the naka they were to target was changed.
It is then when Bashir allegedly spotted the movement of the CRPF convoy, while sitting inside his shop on the national highway, and suggested that as a target, NIA sources had told ThePrint last month. The idea, sources said, was instantly approved by the JeM leadership.
Referred to as ‘Afzal’
Audio notes accessed by the NIA have revealed that, after the attack, Bashir was referred to as “Afzal” by Jaish operatives in Pakistan, a source in the NIA told ThePrint. This is a possible reference to Afzal Guru, who was convicted of involvement in the 2001 Parliament attack carried out by the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the JeM.
“Shakir’s role was referred to as a contribution similar to that of Afzal in a voice note that we have accessed,” the source said.
Apart from identifying the target of the Pulwama attack, Bashir is believed to have driven Adil Ahmad Dar to the National Highway, after which the latter took charge of the vehicle.
From December 2018 onwards, Shakir Bashir allegedly started performing reconnaissance to assess the movement and deployment of security forces on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway.
Bashir had also allegedly collected the explosive material i.e. RDX, gelatin sticks, aluminium power and calcium-ammonium nitrate and stocked them at his house for making the IEDs used in the attack. The car used in the attack was allegedly kept in the front-yard of Bashir’s house.
Slain militant was also to be ‘promoted’
Another operative, Sajjad Ahmad Bhatt, who allegedly purchased the car for the attack was also to be “promoted” and sent for training to Afghanistan, the NIA source said.
“Sajjad was told that he has worked hard on the operation and, hence, will now join the ranks of active terrorists,” the source added. However, Sajjad was killed in an encounter with the security forces in June 2019.