The terror attack on a BSF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday could have been averted if authorities had stopped the LeT’s Kashmir commander from slipping through a security dragnet on June 9 and thoroughly questioned a day later a trucker who drove the Pakistani militants behind the strike.
Abu Qasim, the diminutive Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander and the man behind the Udhampur attack, had luck on his side as he escaped government forces at Khudermuh village in Pulwama district on June 9, sources said.
The next day, Jammu and Kashmir Police, based on an intelligence tip-off, picked up Pulwama resident Shaukat Ahmed Bhatt, an over ground worker, or local linkman, of Pakistan’s LeT, and questioned him about the truck cargo he delivered to Shew area the previous night but failed to get much information.
Home ministry sources said Shaukat, who is in state police custody, later identified arrested LeT terrorist Mohammed Naveed as one of the passengers he had on board that day, a week after the Pakistani militant and his associates slipped across the LoC into India “to kill Hindus.”
The driver picked out Naveed based on a photograph shown to him by police.Naveed was captured in Udhampur and an accomplice killed following this week’s attack on the BSF convoy in which two jawans died.
Shaukat delivered Naveed and three other terrorists to Qasim who’s also behind attacks in Samba, Kathua and Udhampur in Jammu this year. According to an interrogation report, Qasim took the four terrorists to various places all over Kashmir, including Srinagar city.
Qasim, a generic name, and his second in command, Abu Dojana, were Naveed’s handlers in Kashmir, the captured terrorist reportedly told officials. Security forces have been hunting for Qasim in south Kashmir for the past four years.
While security agencies on Friday took Naveed to several spots in south Kashmir for corroborative evidence on the ground, sources said his arrest confirmed Qasim’s hand behind the attacks in Samba, Kathua and Udhampur.The arrested militant said in his confession that on June 2 about 15 armed infiltrators were lined up on a launching pad at Pakistan’s Fazza Top village, also called Forward Kahuta, that faces an Indian army border outpost called Noorie.
He along with associates Mohammed Nomen, alias Nomin, Abu Ukasa and Abu Mohammed separately slipped across the Line of Control (LoC).
Naveed crossed the LoC with the help of four guides, walking through 18 kilometres of mountainous terrain to reach Baba Rishi area in J&K’s Baramulla sector.
According to Naveed, Nomin, who was killed by the BSF in the Udhampur encounter, claimed he used to be a bodyguard of Jama’at-ud-Da’wah chief and Lashkar emir Hafiz Saeed and the Kahuta launching pad was under the authority of terrorist commander Abu Qital.
The young militant, who told officials he had two brothers, Nadeem and Saleem, and a married sister, Faiza, was reportedly motivated to join the LeT by religious recruiter Bashir at Ghulam Mohammadabad colony in Pakistan’s Faisalabad city.
He was trained at Mashkar Aqsa, an advanced terror camp near Shivoy Nullah in Pakistan’s Mansehra district between August and November 2014.
He had done his basic training at a camp in the Garhi Habibullah subdivision of the same district three years ago.
Naveed was called for “action” late in May this year and trained in using global positioning system (GPS) and Google maps. At around 1pm on August 4, Qasim brought Nomin and Naveed together and they were ordered to conduct an attack on Jammu. The targets, according to Naveed, were Hindus.
The two crossed Ramban area and hit the BSF convoy at 7.10am the next day.
While Nomin died in counter-fire, Naveed was captured later and security forces recovered two AK assault rifles, four magazines, 108 rounds, a grenade and two haversacks.
Two of the other Pakistani infiltrators were still waiting for attack orders in Jammu, Naveed said.