Terrorists using mountain routes to enter Valley
26 September 2002
The Asian Age
Srinagar: Terrorists are still pouring into Jammu and Kashmir through the mountain routes from Pakistan. The intelligence agencies estimate a 1,800-strong presence of terrorists in the state with the concentration at present in Srinagar city as well as in south Kashmir, which is scheduled to go to the polls on October 1. The terrorists are using their resources to target political workers, candidates and voters with the infiltration reportedly at the same level as before Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf gave the assurance that it would be curtailed. Time and energy is not being wasted on symbolic attacks with even August 15 passing without any major incident of violence. The terrorists are presently avoiding the security forces as far as possible. Instead repeated attacks are being carried out against candidates and political workers with the militants expected to give a particularly rough time to candidates in the third phase of polling, particularly in the Shopian-Trar belt in south Kashmir. Intelligence agencies, according to highly placed sources in Srinagar, have detected a slight change in the behaviour pattern of the terrorists. In the city, the terrorists are no longer carrying AK-47s for the past one year because of the tight security and the negligible local support. Most acts of violence are being carried out by Pakistanis, the sources said, with the Kashmiris staying out of the operations altogether. The Pakistani intruders have taken to firing at targets at point blank range wherever possible, and have started using silencers. Explosives are being used to spread terror in the current phase of violence. The absence of local support has also affected the complexion of the terrorist groups that cross the Line of Control into Jammu and Kashmir. The sources said that groups of about 10 are coming in, including about five terrorists, porters and one or two guides. Earlier the guides were locals, but now there is evidence that this work is being done by Pakistanis familiar with the terrain. The security forces have managed to neutralise the Indian guides who are no longer willing to risk their lives for the terrorists from across the border. Interrogation of those arrested has helped the intelligence agencies put together a fairly clear cut modus operandi for the terrorists. The terrorists report to a training camp on the Pakistani side of the LoC. The sources insisted that most of these camps along the LoC are still functioning, although there are reports that families have been moved into a few to give these the guise of ''refugee camps.'' From here, they are moved to what the intelligence agencies here refer to as the ''launching detachment'' which is usually about 4-5 km inside Pakistan from the LoC. These ''dets,'' as they are called, are in the form of small houses taken on rent by the militant outfits. Here they are joined by the guides. The group then moves to, what are described here as, ''ISI detachments'' where they are given weapons, explosives and funds for the operation. The weapons usually consist of AK-47s with four magazines, 8-10 grenades and about 30,000 in Indian rupees. The sources said that another Rs 4-5 lakhs are given to the leader of the group for the actual operation. The porters, about three to four, are also provided for each group to carry the food and the weapons. A recent change is that now the ISI does not come out openly to furnish the group with supplies, the sources said, pointing out that recent interrogations of caught terrorists had revealed that the weapons and the money was now being handed over to them by the tanzeem and not the government agency. Well-armed and well-trained, the group then begins the long and hazardous journey across the LoC into Jammu and Kashmir. The group, according to the sources here, moves only at night when visibility in the treacherous passes is near zero. The guides take the lead and move just about 100 yards at a time, checking the territory for mines. The group moves on till about the break of dawn and then hides in the jungle through out the day. No one is allowed to talk during the entire journey. This slow progress continues till the group is out of the danger zone that is within three kilometres of the LoC on the Indian side. This is the area of watch towers, ambushes and intensified patrolling. Interestingly, the terrorists are under strict instructions not to confront the security forces within this belt so that they can get past the border areas and penetrate into the state. It is largely because of this, the sources said, that terrorist attacks are little known in Uri, Kupwara although this belt is heavily infested. ''They are here but do nothing,'' the sources said, although now during the elections candidates and workers remain targets. The terrorist group relaxes only when it reaches the first receiving point which lies in the more inhabited areas, about five kilometres from the LoC. Here they are met by members from the tanzeem, mainly the Hizbul Mujahideen that has a larger presence in the state. The local tanzeem members provide the list of political candidates, their addresses and other such details. The terrorists then plan the entire operation, and carry out the strikes. The sources said that the local Kashmiris are no longer involved in the violence. Recently, a Pakistan terrorist was caught by the police following intelligence information while being treated for a gun shot wound at a hospital. Local tanzeem members had posted their own persons at his bedside posing as relatives. The security forces are worried about the third phase as there is evidence and information of strong militant presence in south Kashmir. The terrorists do not speak Kashmiri and usually this is a factor for their identification by the intelligence agencies on their trail. Most are in the under 30 age group and are highly motivated and fearless. Infiltration, according to the local officers, is neither up nor down. It has maintained a fairly steady presence at about 1800 terrorists in the state at any given point of time.