A rigged and tampered Kenwood wireless set recovered by the security agencies in north Kashmir's Sopore area earlier last month shows militants are investing in new communication modes to bypass easy-to-track mobile cellular services.
The police investigation into the device, spotted by locals first, recovered from an Airtel tower in Badambagh area of Sopore, in Baramulla district, 55 km north of Srinagar, throws up new revelations.
The militants, who planted the cheap, affordable, readily-available Kenwood wireless, successfully connected it with the battery backup of the mobile tower itself.
Sources said it was turned into a remote-controlled device and the height of tower was used to boost the signals more than 5 km range, at least 3 km more than a Kenwood wireless could reach.
"The militants converted the device into repeater to enhance its range. We suspect there were several such devices planted in the area to make a safe network of communication, bypassing the security agencies' surveillance," said a top police officer on the condition of anonymity.
What surprises the investigating agencies is detailed know-how of the militants about the communication set up.
"The device has two open wires and was used to receive and make calls too," said a police source.
The army experts are also inspecting the device apparently meant only for local communication between the militants in the area. The security agencies rule out it was being used to talk to militant command across the Line of Control.
"Militants seemed 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 grip of the security forces," said a police officer, posted in Sopore.
The police suspect the hand of Hizbul Mujahideen in the fresh move to ban cellular services. However, Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin repeatedly distanced from the attacks on cellular companies and private tower owners.
Militant ranks have swelled in restive Sopore area with police suspecting at least 50 fresh recruitments, joining militancy in and around Baramulla district. The Hizb is emerging as the most strong militant outfit, said the source.
The militants are trying to make a major comeback by striking at the cellular communication network in north Kashmir. Dozens of posters warning service providers to shut their services continue by little-know Lashkar-e-Islami.
In one month's time, two civilians were killed and one injured in three separate attacks on those dealing with the services, badly affecting the cellular services. One grenade was also hurled at a mobile tower to create scare.
The communication breakdown in north can be gauged from the fact that the police have set up internet facility for students in Sopore and Baramulla towns to apply for jobs and admissions.
The repercussions were felt in south Kashmir and capital Srinagar too where many shopkeepers are wary to offer services for fresh connections.
However, director general of police, North Kashmir, Gareeb Das, on Sunday claimed to have achieved first 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," said DIG Das, refusing to divulge further details.
He said the police have constituted special teams to crack all the cases of attacks on telecom companies.