Srinagar, Jan 07: The re-emergence of Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) outfit on the militancy scene in Kashmir has shaken the security grid that fears more fidayeen attacks and Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blasts in future.
The sources in the security grid said that re-introduction of remote-controlled IED in Sopore on January 6 that resulted in the death of four Indian Reserve Police cops including a junior officer, has sent shock waves.
“Managing IED blasts is the most lethal form of guerrilla warfare. Kashmir was fortunate that use of IEDs had minimized to almost zero but its re-introduction is not a good omen for the security forces and the public at large,” a senior police officer told Kashmir Wire, wishing not to be named.
Informed sources said that JEM outfit received a fillip in 2017 summer when a group of 15-20 highly-trained militants sneaked into Kashmir from north Kashmir’s Kupwara district. The group equipped with sophisticated weapons stayed in Bandipora and Pulwama districts and immediately began strengthening the network of Over Ground Workers.
Sources said a detachment of the squad was seen in a Laam-Aripal belt of Tral sub-district in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district where Noor Muhammad Tantray was already in contact with them. Tantray, 47, was highly motivated after jumping the parole from a long incarceration in Delhi’s Tihar Jail in a weapon dealing case.
Before joining militants, Tantray had modified a Maruti car that he used to travel across the valley to establish new contacts. He was killed in a secret operation at Samboora village in Pampore on December 26.
Sources said that Tantray was in possession of a huge cache of arms and ammunition left by Jaish militants in early 2000 in his area. He distributed the weapons among an undisclosed number of new recruits. Sources said that that a top Pakistani JeM commander who had left valley in 2002, and returned fifteen years later, also helped Tantray in recollecting weapons and other logistics.
The JeM had planned to carry out IED blast in south Kashmir in the last week of December. However, 10 days before Tantray’s killing, an IED expert of the outfit was blown into pieces at Handura village in Tral while fabricating the lethal explosive.
His comrades carried his body wrapped in a blanket to Eidgah at Tral with a note on his identity and cause of death. The people had been asked to give the slain Pakistani militant a decent burial. However, police whisked away his body for burial in Baramulla district.
Sources said that the fidayeen squad has been named after Afzal Guru and its members carried out massive fidayeen missions in Pulwama police lines, Srinagar Airport and Lethpora CRPF camp inflicting heavy casualties on police and the government forces.
The senior police officer said that JeM has carried out most gory IED blasts including the October 1, 2001, blast outside the legislature complex in Srinagar. The blast killed 38 persons and 3 suicide bombers and injured 68 others.
“It would be disastrous if the outfit is again in a position to carry out massive blasts,” he said.
However, the Additional Director General of Police Munir Khan, who oversees counterinsurgency operations in Kashmir range said that a new strategy would be devised to contain IED blasts. “We will have to sit down and think about. We have to see how to tackle such incidents taking place in future,” Khan told reporters after the Sopore explosion.
3 militants killed in Budgam encounter
Srinagar, Jan 21: Three militant of Hizbul Mujahideen outfit were killed in an encounter at Hapatnar woods in Charar-e-Shareef area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district on Monday.
News agency Global News Service quoted a senior police officer saying that a joint team of Army’s 53 RR, SOG and CRPF launched a cordon-and-search operation in forest area of Hapatnar early Monday morning following “credible inputs” about the presence of some militants.
As the joint team of forces intensified the combing operation, the militants hiding in the area opened fire triggering off a gunfight which continued intermittently till late in the evening.
During the course of gunfight, three militants belonged to Hizbul Mujahideen outfit were killed, the officer said.
The operation was prolonged due to the tough terrain amid inclement weather conditions, he added.”So far one body has been recovered along with arms and ammunition. The other two bodies which are lying inside the hideout are yet to be retrieved,” the officer said.
“The identity of the slain is being ascertained,” the officer said.
The officer said that the government forces have also blasted the hideout of the militants in the mountainous area, covered under plenty of snow.
Meanwhile, sources identified one among the slain Shahid Baba of Drabgam, Pulwama. (With inputs from GNS)
Snow, rains persist: Land, air traffic disrupted
Srinagar, Jan 21: Although not as severe as predicted, fresh snowfall and rains were Monday lashed Kashmir bringing some respite to the people from the cold wave.
The plains of Kashmir witnessed moderate rainfall from early hours of Monday, while there were reports of snowfall in higher reaches of the valley, officials said here.
The MeT Office has forecast widespread rain and snow over the state with heavy falls at isolated places till Tuesday.
Meanwhile, traffic on the 300-km long Srinagar-Jammu highway was halted because of heavy snowfall on the stretch.
“Today no movement of vehicular traffic on Jammu Srinagar NHW from Jammu towards Srinagar and vice versa as road blocked due to snow accumulation at Nowgam-Jawahar Tunnel-Qazigund Sector and still snowing,” J&K Traffic Police tweeted Monday morning.
Bad weather conditions also disrupted operations at the Srinagar International Airport here, leading to the cancellation of four flights, officials said.
“Due to the inclement weather, four of the 27 flights to and fro Srinagar were cancelled on Monday,” an official of the Airport Authority of India.
Another 11 flights got delayed due to poor visibility and intermittent rainfall since Monday morning, he said.
The minimum temperature in Srinagar on Sunday settled at minus 0.3 degree Celsius, same as previous night, a MET official said.
He said Qazigund, the gateway town to the valley, in south Kashmir recorded a low of 0.6 degree Celsius, while the nearby Kokernag town registered a low of minus 0.3 degrees Celsius Sunday night.
The mercury in Kupwara town in north Kashmir settled at a low of minus 0.6 degree Celsius. Gulmarg ski-resort in north Kashmir recorded a low of minus 4 degrees Celsius Sunday night, while Pahalgam tourist resort, in south Kashmir, recorded a low of 0.2 degrees Celsius, the official said.
He said Leh, in the frontier Ladakh region, recorded a low of minus 5.6 degrees Celsius, while the mercury in Kargil registered a low of minus 14.0 degrees Celsius. Kargil was the coldest recorded place in Jammu and Kashmir, colder than even Drass town which recorded a low of minus 6.8 degrees Celsius.
Kashmir is currently under the grip of ‘Chillai Kalan’, the 40-day harshest period of winter when the chances of snowfall are maximum and the temperature drops considerably.
‘Chillai Kalan’ ends on January 31, but the cold wave continues even after that in Kashmir. The 40-day period is followed by a 20-day long ‘Chillai Khurd’ (small cold) and a 10-day long ‘Chillai Bachha’ (baby cold).
Lack of funds halts vital JK tourism projects
Srinagar, Jan 21: The Governor-led administration is mulling to start new projects to boost tourism in Kashmir even as several old ones have been left midway due to want of funds.
In December last year, the administration ordered the constitution of an official panel for identification of new projects in tourism sector to be implemented under Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP).
Back in 2014, the Government of India, under Project/Infrastructure Development for Destination and Circuits (PIDDC), had sanctioned Rs 7593.88 lakh for development of basic tourism infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir through private investment, opening of new potential destinations and development of heritage, adventure, and pilgrim and eco-tourism.
However, the projects have been left incomplete as the Centre has, as per the latest official data, released only Rs 3504.80 lakh of the sanctioned amount against which the department shows 100 percent expenditure.
Now, due to the unavailability of funds, the PIDDC project is on standstill.
The project included development of Eidgah, face-lifting of Khankahi Moula, Development of Jamia Masjid Heritage Corridor, Renovation of Aali Masjid, Upgrading of Ziyarat Abdul Razaq Sahib at Hawal, Ziyarat Hazrat Balaad Rumi at Rajouri Kadal, Ziyarat Akhoon Sahib and TajBibi at Fateh Kadal, Ziyarat Hazrat Noor Shaha Sahib at Narwara, and Conservation of areas from Naagar Nagar to Watlab.
The tourist circuit from Naagar Nagar to Watlab, which was a key component of the project, still requires Rs 2312.90 lakh to be completed, official data shows.
Another main component of PIDDC project, construction of Trans Himalayan Culture Centre in Leh, too requires further Rs 1094.48 lakh for completion.
Similarly, development of Khiram Shrine in South Kashmir’s Bijbehara town also remains incomplete for want of funds.
Section Officer of Planning, Tourism Department, Sajad Ahmad, told The Kashmir Monitor that “65 per cent” of the work has been completed on Naagar Nagar to Watlab component of the project.
“We had to stop the work because the Centre did not release the funds,” he added.
Executive Engineer, JK Tourism, Abdul Qayoom Kirmani said they have asked the Government of India for the pending funds and also sent to them the proposal of the new projects.
“We have identified new Rs 100 crore new projects under PMDP-II, which comprises of nine circuits,” he said.