Militants’ bid to repeat Pulwama attack fails

Car blasted close to CRPF convoy at Banihal
Ultra jumps before explosion, escapes
Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Mar 30: Militants attempted to repeat February 14-like Pulwama terror attack in Banihal on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway this morning, but failed as LPG cylinder IED along with explosive material, inside a Hyundai Santro car was blasted off by a militant, who was driving the car, few yards short of para-military Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy and the troops had narrow es-cape as the car caught fire and was gutted.
Militant, who was driving the car, fled away from the spot and was seen by the eyewitnesses while rushing towards village Gund near Banihal and remained untraced despite massive search and cordon operations launched along the Highway as well as interior areas by security forces after suspending the traffic.
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The National Investigating Agency (NIA), which was probing Pulwama terror attack, has reached the spot for investigations along with police, Forensic experts and Dog squads for probe and find out how the car could manage to reach right up to the convoy of 33 CRPF vehicles, which was on way from Srinagar to Jammu despite categorical directions of avoiding civilian vehicles or keeping vigil on them during movement of the convoy of security forces
post-Pulwama terror attack in which 44 CRPF personnel were martyred.
The incident is being considered as major security lapse as the vehicle nearly breached the convoy of CRPF and the blast took place just few yards away from one of the CRPF vehicles, which was damaged but there were no casualties.
Hizbul Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the attack and named militant, who was driving the car, as Owais Amin.
Inspector General of Police, MK Sinha told the Excelsior that Hyundai Santro car was fitted with two LPG cylinders-one each big and small-and contained petrol, jerrycan, gelatin sticks, urea and sulphur, the material which is used for fabricating Improvised Explosive Device (IED) to cause blast.
“The driver jumped out of the vehicle before triggering the blast,” Sinha said, adding some of the eyewitnesses told police that he fled towards village Gund. Massive search operations were on to track down the accused.
Sinha said the CCTV footage at Jawahar tunnel didn’t show movement of the vehicle.
“The vehicle either appeared at Tethar, about three kilometers from Banihal towards Jawahar Tunnel or it might have changed the number plate after crossing the tunnel,” sources said, adding that the Santro car was also coming from the same direction in which the convoy was moving i.e. Jawahar tunnel to Banihal and the militant triggered the blast close to one of the CRPF vehicles at Tethar around 10.30 am but jumped out before causing the blast.
The car went into flames with impact of the blast and was gutted. However, the CRPF convoy especially the vehicle, which was nearest to the blasted car, didn’t suffer much damage as there were no casualties.
SSP Ramban Anita Sharma and Additional SP Ramban Sanjay Parihar rushed to the spot along with enforcement of police and para-military personnel. Army also reached the spot immediately and later police called the NIA teams besides Forensic experts and Dog Squads to examine nature of the blast and other investigations.
Traffic on the National Highway was immediately suspended and the area was cordoned off to trace the militant, who fled away from the spot after causing the blast that reduced 2011 make Hyundai Santro car to ashes.
Sources confirmed that major Pulwama like tragedy has been averted as the blast was caused few yards away from the CRPF bus and the jawans inside the vehicle had a very narrow escape. A total of 33 CRPF vehicles were part of the convoy, which was on way from Srinagar to Jammu.
One of the vehicles nearest to the blasted car suffered very minor damage with flames. Two wind screens of the bus were damaged with impact of the blast.
The CRPF convoy was immediately halted after the blast. Traffic on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway was also suspended. The convoy was released after complete sanitization of the National Highway. However, the militant who drove the car remained untraced so far though massive searches were on for him.
The Forensic and other experts have collected remnants of car, explosives and both the LPG cylinders from the spot for examination. Sources said one of the LPG cylinders was completely intact while another had partially been damaged but it too hadn’t burst.
According to sources, by using the two LPG cylinders and petrol, jerrycan, gelatin sticks, urea and sulphur, an attempt had been made by the militants to convert the car into highly powerful IED. The militant had planned to ram the car into the convoy by triggering the blast. However, the attempt failed as the car blasted few yards away.
After Pulwama terror attack, the Central and State Governments had devised plan to stop movement of civilian vehicles during security force convoys. The Home Ministry had entitled the para-military jawans to air travel. Sources admitted that it was a major security breach that the car managed to reach very close to the convoy loaded with deadly explosive material.
Police have ordered investigations into the case including movement of explosive laden car on the National Highway and that too so close to the CRPF convoy.
Meanwhile, the NIA, which was investigating Pulwama terror attack, also reached the spot and joined the probe along with other security agencies. Army and police jointly conducted the search operation.
Sources said one of the security agencies found a Hizbul Mujahideen letter near the site of blast in which the outfit had named Owais Amin as the militant, who was driving the car.
Authorities said Hyundai car was 2011 make and name of the owner has been traced. He will be questioned to ascertain whether he had sold the vehicle.
A militant had rammed his car into the CRPF convoy at Pulwama on February 14 in which 44 CRPF personnel were martyred. India had carried out air strikes at Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp at Balakote in Pakistan in which number of militants were killed. The attack was aimed at avenging the Pulwama terror attack.