Pampore attack: Security convoys in dangerous terrains are ‘sitting ducks’
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Pampore attack: Security convoys in dangerous terrains are ‘sitting ducks’

The Pampore ambush that killed eight CRPF men last week was the third militant attack on a security convoy in Jammu and Kashmir this year, underscoring the vulnerability of soldiers travelling in soft-shelled vehicles through dangerous terrain.

india Updated: Jun 28, 2016 07:51 IST
Abhishek Saha, Hindustan Times
Pampore,CRPF,Lashkar-e-Taiba
CRPF jawans at Patna airport pay tributes to soldier Santosh Saw, who died on Saturday. (PTI)

The Pampore ambush that killed eight CRPF men last week was the third militant attack on a security convoy in Jammu and Kashmir this year, underscoring the vulnerability of soldiers travelling in soft-shelled vehicles through dangerous terrain.

On Saturday evening, the men were returning to base camp from a practice session at a nearby firing range in a four-vehicle convoy when one bus came under attack from Lashkar-e-Taiba militants. The ambush also wounded about 20 CRPF men.

At the wreath-laying ceremony the next day for those killed, director general of state police K Rajendra Kumar told reporters that such convoys are “sitting ducks” during surprise attacks. Evidence of what the top cop said lay in the state’s bloody past.

Read | Army says it killed Pampore militants, deletes tweet after CRPF objects

Earlier this month, three Border Security Force (BSF) troopers were killed and five more wounded after militants attacked their convoy on the Srinagar-Jammu highway in Bijbehara in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district. In this attack too one bus was singled out in a convoy of more than 20 vehicles on the way from Jammu to Srinagar.

In February, three militants attacked a CRPF convoy killing two and wounding seven in Pampore. Back in 2013, eight soldiers were killed when militants attacked an army convoy on the outskirts of Srinagar.

Security officials said convoys were vulnerable because their movement is predictable; since they travel long distances, the militants get to choose the location of attack; and they present the militants an opportunity to exact a heavy toll.

Inspector general of police SJM Gilani was of the view that convoys constantly court danger. “A convoy merges with the traffic on the road and the chain often breaks at some points. Therefore, though there is security, an isolated vehicle can be targeted,” he said.

Moreover, the vehicles used in convoys are often “soft”, not hard shell and bullet-proof.

 Read | 8 CRPF men, 2 militants killed in Kashmir ambush, LeT claims responsibility

CRPF DIG KK Sharma said militants get to choose the time and place of ambush as convoys wind their way through long distances. And when they occur, casualties are normally high. “Imagine throwing a stone in a dark cinema hall. It’s bound to hit somebody. The strike rate is quite high,” he explained.

Questions abound if the latest attack on the CRPF bus could have been foiled.

Defence minister Manohar Parrikar has ordered an inquiry into whether the standard operating procedure (SOP) was adopted by the CRPF personnel travelling in the convoy.

It has emerged that the attackers had been waiting in ambush in a car by the roadside with AK47s and grenades for the convoy’s arrival and the “road opening party”, a forward team that looks for looming danger, failed to detect them. Initial reports suggest that the CRPF personnel were slow in reacting to the attack.

Details are awaited and the army insists a tight security apparatus is in place to protect convoys.

“Drills are laid down (for the army) keeping in view all contingencies that could happen,” Srinagar-based army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel NN Joshi said.

CRPF DIG Sharma, however, said attacks on convoys are not specific to Kashmir. “Anywhere where there is militancy, convoys come under attack.”

Security officials believe better a safety ring and intelligence inputs can prevent such attacks.

The CRPF on Sunday said some heavy-armoured mine protected vehicles (MPVs) were shifted from Maoist-affected areas to Kashmir to “effectively secure our men during convoy movements and road opening tasks”.

Read | Doubt if CRPF followed standard procedures properly: Parrikar on Pampore attack

First Published: Jun 28, 2016 00:39 IST