Srinagar, Oct 28: Sniper attack by Jaish-e-Mohammed militant has emerged as a new source of worry for security agencies in Kashmir with three personnel having been killed since mid-September, prompting the law enforcement agencies to re-calibrate their strategy to thwart such strikes, officials said.
The first such attack took place at Newa in Pulwama on September 18 when a CRPF personnel was injured. Security officials thought it to be a one-off strike till the recent spate of sniper attacks that claimed the lives of a Sashastra Seema Bal jawan and an Army personnel in Tral, and a CISF trooper in Nowgam.
Based on intelligence inputs, security agencies believe that at least two separate ‘buddy’ groups of the proscribed Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) comprising two militant each have entered Kashmir Valley in early September and have entrenched themselves in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district with the help of some overground supporters of the outfit.
These militants, the officials claim, have been thoroughly trained by Pakistan’s external snooping agency ISI for carrying out sniper attacks in Kashmir Valley and have been armed with M-4 carbines, used by the US-led allied forces in Afghanistan.
“There is a possibility that these weapons may be part of the arms and ammunition captured by the Talibans, with whom the JeM cadre were fighting the allied forces in Afghanistan,” security officials in the state said.
In all the instances of sniper attacks, the militants used a nearby hillock to carry out strikes on a security force campus when unsuspecting jawans were using their mobile phones to talk to their family or friends.
“These attacks have been precise, even while targeting a personnel inside a sentry post as he uses his mobile phone. They pick up the light of the mobile phone to carry out the attack on troopers,” said one of the officials.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has reacted to the rising cases of sniper attacks. “We’ve dealt with snipers on the border/LoC regularly and have SOPs to deal with those but never in the hinterland. This will force a rethink of all manner of security and protection procedures.”
The M-4 carbine is mounted with a telescope and the militants are using night vision devices to locate their potential targets, the officials said. The weapon can fire at its target up to 500-600 metre with precision.
The security agencies, including army, CRPF and Jammu and Kashmir police, have already issued fresh guidelines to their troopers and officers located in camps in the militancy-hit areas.
Maintaining a silence over the change in tactics, the officials said more combing operations would be carried out around the security camps.
They said Jaish cadres were likely to carry out more such attacks in the future, but added that some modules had been identified and these cases were likely to be cracked soon.
The security agencies had been observing that while pushing the militants into Kashmir Valley from the Line of Control (LoC), ISI meticulously planned to send in Jaish-e-Mohammed cadre along.
Those militants were armed with the best possible arsenal, including bullets with steel core – with the capability to pierce a static bullet proof bunker used during counter-militancy operations, the officials said.