Surrendered militant arrested for twin Udhampur blasts, was in touch with Doda’s Pak-based ultra

DGP Dilbag Singh and other senior officers at a press conference in Jammu on Sunday. -Excelsior/Rakesh
DGP Dilbag Singh and other senior officers at a press conference in Jammu on Sunday. -Excelsior/Rakesh

Pak enemy of peace, can’t see development in J&K: DGP

Another ultra held in Kathua with sticky bomb

Excelsior Correspondent

JAMMU, Oct 2: Police have worked out twin blasts triggered by sticky bombs inside two Ramnagar and Basantgarh bound buses in Udhampur on September 28 and 29 with the arrest of a surrendered militant, who was operating at the behest of a Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operative, and recovered large quantity of IEDs, sticky bombs, detonators, time devices etc.

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The militant who planted sticky bombs in the buses has been identified as Mohammad Aslam Sheikh son of Mohammad Shafi, a resident of village Kadwa in Basantgarh area of Udhampur district. He was a surrendered militant and was recycled into the militancy by Pakistani handler Mohammad Amin Bhat alias Khubaib son of Dawood Bhat, a resident of Kathawa, Doda, who is now operating from a Lashkar camp in Pakistan.
Recoveries made from the house of surrendered militant include two IEDs, three sticky bombs, five detonators, two time devices and four dry batteries.
Addressing a press conference here this evening, Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbag Singh described Pakistan as enemy of peace and development in Jammu and Kashmir and said situation is fast improving in the UT where people have rejected terror.
“They (the Pakistan) can’t see development in J&K. Home Minister (Amit Shah) is here to inaugurate several development projects. That is why during this high profile visit, they wanted to make their presence felt and convey message that all is not well,” Dilbag said.
In a strong message to Pakistan, the DGP said destruction will lead Pakistan nowhere.
“First they should set their house in order and take care of issues back home than disturbing peace in Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.
Disclosing that Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba terror outfit was behind the recent twin blasts in Udhampur which were carried out ahead of high profile visit of HM to convey “all is not well” in the Union Territory, Dilbag said the case was worked out within the shortest period of three days with the arrest of a recycled militant.
“Definitely Pakistan and its agencies have been ensuring that theValley remains not in peace but in disturbance. Now the things are better and improving with each passing day,” he said.
Flanked by Additional Director General of Police, Jammu Mukesh Singh and other senior police officers from Udhampur district including DIG Suleman Choudhary and SSP Vinod Kumar, the police chief said whenever there is a high profile visit, the militants become desperate to carry out an attack.
“There is a drastic change in the overall security situation in J&K as borne out by facts and figures and not based on mere claims…a very large number of successful operations have been conducted. We have tried to keep our people and their properties safe during the counter-terror operations,” Dilbag said.
He said “the people are by and large with us. We have tried to hit the terror eco-system on various fronts as a result of which the overall security scenario is much better today and you do not have the kind of situation that prevailed about four years back.
“Therefore, to sabotage the VIP visit or any such activity which sends a positive message to the people, the militants and their handlers across the border try to show that all is not well. There are still some militants left and our operations are on and we will be able to take care of them,” the DGP said, responding to questions on the schedule visit of the Home Minister, starting October 3.
The ADGP said besides solving the twin Udhampur bomb blast case, the police also busted a module of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in Kathua district and arrested one of its members along with a sticky bomb.
SSP Kathua RC Kotwal identified the arrested militant as Zakir Hussain Bhat alias Umar Farooq son of Ali Mohammad, a resident of Near Government Primary School Malad in Billawar tehsil. He was earlier convicted in a case and was lodged in Kot Bhalwal jail for 14 years but was released in 2019. He was in touch with multiple contacts of JeM through Social Media Apps and had received consignment of IEDs for carrying out terror attacks in Jammu region.
Police have recovered one sticky bomb from his possession, Kotwal said.
Two blasts inside parked buses within a span of eight hours on September 28 and 29 in Udhampur had taken place at a time when security forces were put on high alert across the Union Territory in view of the Home Minister’s visit.
While two persons were injured in the first blast that took place in a bus near a petrol pump at Domail Chowk at around 10.30 pm on September 28, there was no casualty in the second explosion which also ripped apart a stationary bus at the old Bus Stand Udhampur at around 5.30 am the next morning.
ADGP Mukesh Singh said LeT militant Mohd Amin Bhat alias ‘Khubaib’, a resident of Doda district who is presently operating from Pakistan, contacted Aslam Sheikh of Basantgarh on September 21 and assigned him the task of carrying out the blast ahead of the Union Minister’s visit.
“Aslam was contacted through Social Media by Khubaib, who was also behind another blast in Udhampur earlier this year, on September 21 and informed him to pick up drone-dropped consignment in Dayalachak during the intervening night of September 23-24. He picked up the consignment of three sticky bombs and four other types of IEDs and later planted two of these IEDs inside the passenger buses while travelling from Basantgarh to Ramnagar,” he said.
Udhampur police picked up five persons for questioning following the blasts and Sheikh was one of them who confirmed his involvement in the incident and led to the recovery of five more IEDs and sticky bombs.
Mukesh Singh said over the past six months, it was being observed that the militants operating from Pakistan are trying to revive their old contacts to carry out terror attacks in J&K. “Several of such modules were already busted by police while solving many cases related to terror activities.”
The DGP said Sheikh was an active militant in 2005 and was arrested in a case lodged at Billawar. He was recently released and was contacted by Khubaib.
“Whenever there is a high profile visit, we come across such types of activities. Two JeM fidayeen were eliminated on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s last visit in April,” he said.
He said the police and other security agencies are alert and frustrated by the nefarious designs of non-state actors like LeT and JeM with the arrest of several of their operatives like Talib Hussain who had spread his tentacles across the Jammu region.
Dilbag said they are keeping a close watch on the activities of former militants who are released from jails amid attempts by Pakistan-based handlers to recycle them into terrorism.
He also said several measures have already been taken to counter dropping of weapons and narcotics by drones from across the border and more counter-measures are in the pipeline to thwart such attempts.
“This (recycling of former militants) is not a problem related to Jammu province alone. There are numerous examples where such militants (after their release from jails) became active again for the second time, third time or even fourth time in the valley but most of them stand eliminated,” the police chief said.
He said police are keeping an eye on such elements who were active militants at some point of time and are now released from jails after serving their sentence.
“We are watching them and keeping a close eye over their activities. Definitely, we will take necessary action if they are found involved (in terror activities again),” Singh said, responding to a question about attempts from Pakistan to rope in former militants to carryout terror acts in Jammu and Kashmir.
He said most of the Pakistani handlers have operated in Jammu and Kashmir and they have old association with people who are now in jail or outside and they try to establish contact with them.
“In this (Udhampur twin blast) case, the same thing has happened. It is easy to identify them because they have terrorist background. Contrary to it, we have hybrid militants who hardly have any record of terror related incidents. They became militants only after their first activity,” he said, adding attempts are made to misguide the people towards the wrong path.
Asked about the challenge posed by the use of drones to drop weapons and drugs from across the border, the DGP said police and other security forces are able to successfully intercept most of the dropped material.
“Together with technology and human intelligence, we are successfully intercepting the weapons and narcotics and busted several modules (involved in weapon and narcotic smuggling) in the recent past including one operating from Jammu. We are working to ensure that we have better counter measures on ground to thwart all such attempts,” he said, adding “we are doing much more and are working on it.”
Responding to a question about possible links between Punjab militants and those operating in J&K, he said no direct link has been found between them so far.
“Whatever is happening in Punjab and J&K including air dropping of weapons and narcotics to fund terror activities is controlled by handlers sitting in Pakistan. They are common in both the cases but no direct link between Punjab militants and those operating in J&K has been found as of now,” he said.
In response to another question, the DGP said there was no major involvement of women in terror related activities but women were found involved in narco trade. “We do not differentiate between a woman and a man as the law is equal for both of them.”
On the proposal to install full body scanners on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway to check smuggling of weapons into Kashmir, he said the committee is working on it.
He said most of the areas in Jammu and Kashmir are still terror free. “Attempts are being made to revive militancy especially in Jammu region but all such attempts were thwarted by alert police and security forces with the busting of several modules this year.”
The DGP said the use of sticky bombs by Lashkar-e-Toiba terror outfit is a challenge for the security forces.
“Most of the sticky bombs are being supplied through LeT. There are several incidents where sticky bombs were used in Jammu province and one in Kulgam district of south Kashmir,” the DGP said, adding the sticky bombs are associated with the particular terror group and it is a “serious threat” because the devices are ready-to-use and easy to handle.