Lashkar working to breach Azad security, alarm bells ringing in Delhi and Srinagar
4 January 2008
The Indian Express
Pranab Dhal Samanta
NEW DELHI: There is deep concern in the security establishment in New Delhi and Srinagar after fresh intelligence inputs that the Lashkar-e-Toiba is working hard to infiltrate Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s security net. Azad has been on the radar of terror groups on various occasions but this time, sources say, the threat is higher and the information is confirmed as “reliable.” It’s learnt that National Security Advisor M K Narayanan has spoken to Azad on the matter and a complete review of his security is now underway. This came shortly after Narayanan sent a security advisory to all Chief Ministers urging caution in public appearances in the wake of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. But it’s the threat of a breach in Azad’s security that has triggered a series of alerts. It’s learnt that intelligence agencies, particularly the Research & Analysis Wing, received inputs more than once in the past couple of weeks that Lashkar cadres are “trying to get close” to Azad in some manner and have possibly identified “assets” in the security net guarding the CM. Top officials of the J&K police are being briefed individually and the matter is being monitored at the highest level. Sources say a “toothcomb review” of all those who meet Azad on a regular basis, his security personnel and other personal staff has started. With J&K elections slated for later this year, any attack on Azad is being seen in New Delhi as a worst case scenario. Azad as a target has significant ramifications on the situation in Kashmir which has been relatively stable last year. Another round of peaceful elections will bolster prospects for the state which, sources say, will be a major setback to terrorists’ plans. An attack on Azad also has the potential to throw the current India-Pakistan engagement into disarray. Currently, two CMs, Azad and Narendra Modi, are on the hit list of Islamic terror groups and are being accorded the highest security. An alert on a possible suicide attack on Modi was issued just a few days ahead of the Gujarat poll results. Incidentally, in May 2006, minutes before Azad was due to arrive at a rally in Srinagar to mark Rajiv Gandhi’s death anniversary, two militants stormed the venue killing five before they were shot dead.