Rigged wireless device sets off alarm bells in Kashmir

  • Peerzada Ashiq, Hindustan Times, Srinagar
  • Updated: Jun 02, 2015 09:14 IST

Security agencies recovered a rigged wireless set in north Kashmir’s restive Sopore area last month that revealed militants were adopting new communication strategies to bypass easy-to-track mobile cellular services.

Locals had first spotted the device planted on a mobile tower at Badambagh area in Baramulla district, 55 km north of Srinagar. Ultras had connected the easily available Kenwood wireless set with the mobile tower’s battery backup.

Sources said the wireless set was turned into a remote-controlled device and the tower’s height was used to boost the signal range by more than 5 km — at least three km more than that of a Kenwood wireless.

“The militants converted the device into a repeater to enhance its range. We suspect there were several such devices planted in the area to make a communication network, bypassing surveillance of the security agencies,” a top police officer said. “The device has two open wires and was used to receive and make calls too,” a police source said.

Security agencies have ruled out that the device was being used for communication across the Line of Control (LoC). “Militants seem to have given up on using mobile services in Sopore. They rely on traditional mode of communication or create their own modes because of increased surveillance of the security forces,” a police officer, posted in Sopore, said.

Last month, a little-known group, Lashkar-e-Islam, had pasted posters threatening telecom companies to wind up their operation in the Kashmir Valley.

Most mobile towers in Sopore, Baramulla and Palhalan areas are shut, affecting the operations of all leading cellular companies.

On Monday, one person was injured when militants fired a rifle grenade at a mobile tower in the heart of Srinagar. Preliminary reports suggested the grenade was fired at a mobile tower at Goodbagh in Habba Kadal area. This was the first attack on cellphone facilities by suspected militants in Srinagar. It came in the wake of a series of attacks in Baramulla district of north Jammu and Kashmir.

Militant ranks have swelled in Sopore area, with the police suspecting at least 50 fresh recruits operating in and around Baramulla district. The Hizbul Mujahideen is emerging as the strongest militant outfit, said the source. The militants are trying to make a major comeback by striking at the cellular communication network in north Kashmir, police sources said. In one month’s time, two civilians have been killed and one injured in three separate attacks on those involved in with the cellular services in the state.

A grenade was also hurled at a mobile tower to spread fear among the people and cellphone operators alike.

However, DIG, North Kashmir, Gareeb Das has claimed his men have achieved a breakthrough against the militants. “One of the four cases (of attacks on telecom) has been cracked. Those involved in a grenade hurling case have been detained,” Das said. He added the police have constituted special teams to crack all the cases of the attacks attacks on telecom companies in J-K.

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