Lal Chowk Incident Shows J&K Still Vulnerable To Attacks: PC8 January 2010
Times of India
New Delhi: A day after the end of the Lal Chowk siege in the heart of Srinagar, Union home minister P Chidambaram said: 'The incident highlights the fact that the country, especially Jammu and Kashmir, remains vulnerable to militant attacks sponsored by forces from across the border.' In fact, what the home minister stated on Friday had its imprint in the incident which saw the two terrorists - who were killed during the operation - getting constant instructions over mobile phone from their handlers sitting somewhere in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). The transcript of the intercepted conversations between the terrorists and their Pakistani masters clearly shows that the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) has already activated its modules to carry out more attacks using nearly 700 militants hiding in different parts of J&K. According to the transcript shared by intelligence agencies with the home ministry, the Pakistani handlers kept on asking the jihadis - holed up inside Punjab hotel - to kill as many policemen as possible without any fear saying, 'Aur bande tayaar hai hamla karne ke liye (More volunteers are ready to attack).' When one of the terrorists said, 'Hum phans chuke hai (We are now trapped)...kuch jaldi karo (do something quickly)', the handlers replied: 'Shahadat se pehle zada se zada policewalon ko maro, hotel mein aag laga do (Kill as many policemen as possible, set the hotel on fire before you attain martyrdom); zada se zada nuksaan pahunchao (inflict as much damage as possible).' After one terrorist was killed, the other one said: 'Khel khatm hone wala hai (The game is about to be over).' His master in PoK said: 'Daro nahin, tumhe jaldi rab mil jayega...Khuda mil jayega (Don't be afraid, you are going to heaven, you are going to meet Khuda).' Referring to the transcript, a home ministry official said: 'It also shows that the terrorists originally planned to target the nearby CRPF camp with the intention of killing as many security personnel as possible.' Besides giving commands, one of the terrorists, identified as Abu Qari, was even told by his handlers about the presence of the number of security personnel outside the hotel and where they had taken position. An official said: 'The Lashkar seniors in Pakistan were perhaps watching TV channels which were showing the operation live.' Sources said Qari had a pre-paid mobile connection, which he might have got without proper verification by an Indian service provide. Qari, believed to be in his mid-20s, had kept the mobile connection with him for a long time. He had probably kept it for use only during such 'operations', they added. Qari, who had a small balance left in his mobile phone, was more dependent on his handlers in Pakistan for the telephonic instructions, the sources said. Once he became aware that he was cornered, he had a long chat with his handlers and asked them to take care of his family including his seven brothers and sisters. Qari originally belonged to Balochistan in Pakistan. Complimenting the state police and CRPF for successfully eliminating the terrorists, Chidambaram, in a statement, noted the swift action by J&K Police and CRPF personnel in neutralising the two terrorists. He said: 'They also evacuated nearly 600 civilians to safety. It is noteworthy that the J&K Police and CRPF conducted the operation without calling NSG or Special Forces of the Army.' Stating that the country's capacity to neutralise a militant attack has increased considerably, Chidambaram, however, said: 'I would emphasise once again that the country, especially the security forces, must maintain a high level of vigilance but there is no cause for panic. We must remain calm and confident that our security forces can face any challenge.'