New Delhi: Exactly a year has passed since the deadly Pulwama attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel. But the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has still not been able to unearth the conspiracy behind the orchestrated killings that led to India’s strike in Pakistani territory.
As of today, the agency which is probing the case has neither filed a charge-sheet nor has it been able to source the origin of the heavy explosives used in the attack.
The only clear information available about the attack, according to sources in the NIA, is the explosives used — ammonium nitrate, nitro-glycerine and RDX.
The reason behind the NIA’s almost-dead case is that none of the key suspects are alive.
On the anniversary of the Pulwama attack, ThePrint revisits the details of the ghastly attack, its investigation, the terror outfit behind it, the arrests, the controversies surrounding it, and how it led to the Balakot strike.
What happened on 14 February
Forty CRPF personnel, travelling in a convoy on the Jammu and Kashmir highway in Pulwama district, were killed on 14 February 2019 when a suicide bomber rammed a car loaded with explosives into the CRPF bus at around 3.15 pm at Awantipora’s Goripura.
The impact of the blast reduced the bus to a mangled heap.
Following the attack, banned terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility and even released a video of the purported attacker.
The explosives, which the police had initially suspected to be IEDs, were planted on a vehicle that was parked on the Jammu and Kashmir national highway, according to police sources.
The police claimed that the car came on the wrong carriageway and collided head-on with the bus, which was a part of a larger convoy.
According to the CRPF, over 2,500 personnel were travelling on the highway in 78 vehicles when the attack took place. The bus that sustained maximum impact belonged to the 76 battalion of the CRPF and was travelling with 39 personnel.
Who was the Pulwama suicide bomber
Soon after the attack, the JeM released a video of its bomber who drove the explosives-laden car and executed the Pulwama attack.
He was identified as Adil Ahmad Dar (20), who was recruited by Jaish on 19 March 2018 and trained for this specific “operation” against CRPF personnel.
Dar, a local from Pulwama’s Gandibagh, was a class 11 student when he joined the JeM, sources in the J&K Police claimed. He had been on the radar of J&K Police ever since he started groundwork for the terror outfit. He had also been held for stone-pelting in the Valley in the past.
The Jaish video — only proof
The video released after the attack showed Adil, armed with rifles, seated in front of a JeM banner. It is the only concrete proof the probe agency has to link JeM with the attack, said sources in the NIA.
In the video, Dar admitted that he joined JeM’s “fidayeen squad” for a “purpose”, adding that he had waited for this moment for a year.
“By the time this video is out, I will be enjoying myself in heaven,” he said. “I am proud that I am the real propagator of Islam and my name will be written in golden letters.”
He then sought to warn “Hindustan”, referring to its people as “drinkers of cow urine”, of “further misery” to be unleashed by “Allah’s messengers”.
“We have given you enough pain during the IC 814 hijacking (1999), Nagrota camp killing (2016),” he said. “From the Pathankot airbase attack to Pulwama police line to the BSF camp attacks, we have continuously proved ourselves and now we are stronger than before.”
“Do not think that we will get disheartened by deaths of our commandos. It makes us stronger,” he said.
He also spoke of his dream “to hear of the chants of Allah-hu-Akbar resonating across the minarets of the Babri masjid”.
No arrests as all suspects killed in encounters
Along with suicide bomber Adil Ahmed Dar, the key suspects in the case are JeM operatives Mudasir Ahmed Khan, Qari Mufti Yasser, Kamran and Sajjad Ahmed Bhat, according to sources in the NIA.
All of them, however, have been killed in different encounters with security forces over the last year after a chase to catch them ensued with inputs from NIA and other agencies.
While Mudasir Khan was killed on 10 March 2019, Kamran was killed on 29 March, Sajjad Bhat on 18 June and Qari Yasser on 25 January this year.
According to NIA sources, it was JeM senior commander Mudassir Khan who hatched a conspiracy to carry out the attack.
The NIA also said that he planned to carry out attacks in parts of India including Delhi and was in touch with his handlers in Pakistan over internet calls. The agency also traced the car that was used in the attack.
“The make, model, number of the car used in fidayeen attack was identified using forensic methods, despite the car being blown into bits and pieces beyond recognition,” said an NIA officer who didn’t wish to be named.
“The ownership of this car was established from the first owner to last owner. But before the last owner could be arrested he joined militants ranks of JeM,” the officer said.
While investigating the Pulwama attack, the NIA traced another network of JeM and registered a separate case against over ground supporters of JeM. For this, the NIA named eight persons in the case who have been arrested and charge-sheeted under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
The Balakot strike that followed
On 26 February, just twelve days after the Pulwama attack, five Mirage 2000 fighter jets of the Indian Air Force (IAF) dropped as many Spice 2000 precision-guided bunker-busting bombs when India struck a JeM terror camp at Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region.
India claimed that it attacked a JeM training camp and killed a large number of terrorists.
According to sources in the intelligence, the said camp had emerged as one of JeM’s largest military training centres in 2001.
The centre was not only used as a training ground for over 10,000 recruits at a time, but also had several madrassas, mosques and control rooms, from where several operations were planned.
JeM chief Masood Azhar and his brother Abdul Rauf Asghar were said to be supervising these camps.
Sources also claimed they also had several inputs of activities being planned and operatives trained at Balakot, especially for attacks across India. The Indian strike was planned following these inputs.
Satellite images in possession of the government showed the Israeli Spice 2000 bombs, each of them weighing 900 kg with 95 kg of explosives, did drop on at least two targets. Though the government claimed that over 300 operatives were killed in the strike, there is no clarity on the numbers as of today now.
The PM controversy
In July 2019, a controversy erupted soon after a promo of Discovery channel’s ‘Man vs Wild’ show was released. The promo featured the PM at the Jim Corbett National Park.
“When 44 CRPF jawans were martyred in #Pulwama, PM #Modi was having the time of his life shooting for this programme. He was enjoying it so much, that he continued shooting even after being told of the heinous attack! See him laughing carelessly in the trailer!” Congress spokesperson Shama Mohamed had said.
The Prime Minister’s Office had, however, clarified earlier that the PM did not go to Corbett after Pulwama. In its support, the PMO had released a detailed itinerary of Modi on 14 February.
“The Prime Minister was in Uttarakhand to address a rally in Rudrapur, his journey was interrupted by rain. He spent 3 hours at the Jim Corbett National Park in the afternoon and also a tiger safari, an eco tourism zone and a rescue centre,” the statement said.
The PMO also said that all through the journey he was monitoring the developments in Pulwama and later cancelled his Rudrapur visit and returned to Delhi via Bareilly.