Helicopter was airlifting Rly machinery to Reasi-Sangaldan belt
7 IAF men, 2 KRCL engineers injured as MI-26 crashes

* Jammu Airport runway closed for hrs; flights diverted

By Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, Dec 14: Seven Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel including a Squadron Leader and two engineers of the Konkan Railways Corporation Limited (KRCL) were injured when a MI-26 Helicopter crashed shortly after taking off from the Technical Airport adjoining the domestic airport of Jammu this morning. The helicopter was airlifting heavy road and tunnel construction machinery for the Northern Railways to Reasi-Sangaldan stretch of the Katra-Qazigund Railway Project.

The crash led to the closure of the Jammu Airport runway for hours together and subsequent diversion of the incoming flights and delay in the departure of already landed one besides creating panic in the residential areas adjoining the airport. Soon after the incident, Indian Air Force’s Station Commander, Group Captain D Singh ordered an enquiry to ascertain the cause behind the crash.

Official sources said that as a part of continuous operation to airlift heavy machinery to Reasi-Sangaldan stretch of the Katra-Qazigund Railway Project, MI-26 helicopter of the Indian Air Force took off from the Technical Airport at around 9 am along with Temrock machine being used in the construction of road tunnels. Besides seven crew members of the Air Force, two senior officers of the Konkan Railways Corporation Limited (KRCL) were also on board the helicopter.

When it attained the height of just 30 to 40 meters above the airstrip, the helicopter all of a sudden crashed and fell on the ground near the runway with a big bang causing grievous injuries to all the persons on board. The intensity of the bang could be gauged from the fact that broken parts of the badly damaged helicopter were seen scattered up to over 100 meters away from the spot of crash.

Amidst dense smoke emanating from the mangled helicopter, the crash site was immediately cordoned off and IAF immediately pressed rescue teams and fire tenders into service to avoid explosion due to aviation fuel.

Within next shortest possible time, all the seven crew members as well as two officers of KRCL were brought out of the helicopter and rushed to Military Hospital, Satwari where doctors had already been sounded about the incident for gearing up men and machinery for prompt treatment of the injured.

The crash caused panic among the inhabitants in all the areas adjoining airport with people coming out of their houses and enquiring about the incident.

"I was offering prayers in the premises of Pir Baba when a sudden big bang rattled the entire area and dense smoke started emanating from the runway of technical airport", a civilian Bashir Ahmed said, adding "some broken parts of the crashed helicopter even landed near the Pir Baba".

Stating that a major tragedy has been averted, defence sources said, "had the helicopter been crashed after gaining little more height it would have caused much devastation as on one side of the site of crash there is an Army School and on the other side Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower and building", adding "even if it had crashed after leaving the airport, the damage could have been wide-spread taking several casualties".

The injured IAF personnel are Squadron Leader D Sharma, Wing Commanders R Ghosh and Vishnu Sharma, Junior Warrant Officer J M Tazeer and three Sergeants namely A K Patnaik, P K Pradhan and K P Soni. The injured KRCL officers are Chief Engineer, Nagendra Sharma and Deputy Financial Advisor, Mahesh Dass Sharma. Though condition of two of them was stated to be critical yet they were responding to the treatment when reports last came in.

Due to the helicopter crash, the runway of the technical as well as domestic airport was closed as parts of the crashed helicopter were scattered up to large distance and without inspection of the airstrip allowing operations of the flights was fraught with danger.

Soon after rescue operation, a special vehicle of the IAF fitted with magnetic sheets and plates was pressed to ensure that even small piece of iron or other metal don’t remain on the runway. It was only after three hour long runway inspection that flights were allowed to and fro Jammu airport.

During this period, two flights of GoAir and SpiceJet, which were scheduled to land at Jammu airport, were diverted to Srinagar Airport and departure of already landed Indigo flight got delayed.

Not only the helicopter even Rs 4 crore worth Temrok machine weighing 14 tonnes suffered extensive damage in the crash, official sources said.

This was the 19th sortie of the MI-26 to Surukote area in Reasi-Sangaldhan belt, where machinery was being airlifted to pave the way for construction of approach roads up to the alignment of the railway track, official sources said while disclosing that early 18 sorties were conducted successfully since October 29 when the first sortie was made by the MI-26 by carrying dozers and tipper.

Had today’s sortie been successful, only one more would have been required for airlifting of remaining machinery to Surukote, where a helipad has been constructed by the Northern Railways with the assistance of the local people especially for this purpose, sources said, adding "now there is no time-schedule for airlifting of left over machinery as contractor has to make arrangements for another Temrock machine following damage to already managed one".

Meanwhile, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the Northern Railways, R K Gupta is arriving tomorrow morning to enquire about the health of two KRCL officers, one of whom was this evening shifted from Military Hospital Satwari to Acharya Shri Chander College of Medical Sciences (ASCOMS) Hospital at Sidhra for surgery.

Mr Gupta will also visit the Technical Airport to ascertain intensity of damage to Temrock machine.

It is pertinent to mention here that this was for the first time since extension of railways network beyond Jammu Tawi that Army’s help was sought to airlift heavy road and tunnels construction machinery to remote and toughest terrain.

Special teams to trace 31 most wanted ultras

NEW DELHI, Dec 14: Planning a major crackdown on absconding terrorists, the Centre has formed special teams to nab 31 most wanted militants, including 19 Indian Mujahideen men, whose list has been circulated to all the States and Union Territories.

Official sources said these special teams will make "concerted efforts" to apprehend the absconding IM and Jam-I-yyathul Ansarul Muslimeen (JIAM) terrorists within the country and coordinate with foreign countries where they are suspected to be holed up.

The Union Home Ministry has prepared a complete set of documents on the 31 absconding terrorists and circulated it to all the States and Union Territories for gaining more and more information about them.

The detailed dossiers about the IM and JIAM militants along with photographs have also been shared with a few Gulf countries as intelligence inputs suggest that some of them were currently based there with their Pakistani passports.

The sources said some of the foreign countries had already started helping the security agencies and begun surveillance on some suspects.

Among these 31 terrorists, eight are from Uttar Pradesh (all from Azamgarh), 10 from Karnataka (three of them from Bhatkal town), six from Kerala (all from Kannur), three from Maharashtra and two each from Gujarat and Jharkhand.

Of these terrorists, majority were either in Pakistan or Middle East while around 10 are in India, the sources said.

The Home Ministry dispatched the particulars of the terrorists to the States and advised them to be alert and look for them as some of them could be hiding anywhere in India.

There have been regular intelligence inputs that the IM has been trying to expand its network by recruiting new members, particularly from Uttar Pradesh, and sending some of them to Pakistan for terror training.

Sources said though the IM cadres were lying low for sometime, the terror group has not desisted from launching attacks in the country — the recent one being at Varanasi on Tuesday last.

The Indian Mujahideen’s hand is suspected in over 10 serial blasts in Delhi and other parts of the country that claimed nearly 500 lives.

JIAM struck Bangalore on July 25, 2008. Nine bombs exploded in the city, killing a woman and injuring 20 people.

The IM, which is a shadow outfit of the banned SIMI and Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba which is directly controlled by ISI, was banned by the Government in June this year.

With its addition to the terror list, the number of such outfits has gone up to 35 which includes Al-Qaeda, LTTE, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen, CPI-Maoist and ULFA.

The Indian Mujahideen is alleged to be involved in serial bomb blasts in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bangalore and Mumbai and came under spotlight on February 23, 2005 when it carried out a blast in Varanasi leaving eight people injured.

The deadliest attack of the IM was in the pre-Diwali blasts in the national capital in 2005 in which 66 people were killed.

Amir Reza Khan was the founding member of the Indian Mujahideen, which was created by ISI ostensibly to spread terror through Indian front outfits. The group is at present headed by Iqbal Bhatkal, a resident of North Karnataka, the sources say.

The outfit’s hand is seen in this year’s Pune blast that claimed 17 lives. Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorist Squad claims that it had evidence to link Riaz Bhatkal, Iqbal’s brother, with the blast. The Bhatkal brothers are believed to be in the Gulf and Pakistan. (PTI)

Kashmiri is Qaeda's chief military strategist
Pak Army exposed by owning suicide bomber: Army chief

NEW DELHI, Dec 14: Army chief General V K Singh today said the "intentions and ways" of Pakistan Army have "become clear" with it owning up a ‘suicide bomber’, who died in India, as one of its soldiers on its website.

"I have nothing to say on what they (Pak Army) has put up on its website. But if it has (owned up), then it clearly show what their intentions and ways are and what their next move will be," Singh told reporters here on the sidelines of an Army function here.

Singh met with school children from Jammu and Kashmir, who came visiting Delhi as part of the Army’s ‘Op Sadhbhavana’ movement, to win the hearts of the people of Kashmir.

"All I can say is we have to be more alert and only then we can protect the people and our troops," he said when asked what he thought of Pakistan Army sending ‘suicide bombers’ to India.

"We have tried our best (to prevent infiltration). We are trying to stop infiltration. We will be alert on all fronts," he added.

Pakistan Army’s website named Zulfikar Ahmed as an ISI agent, who was on a suicide attack mission in India and had died in the city’s Ganga Ram Hospital on November 16, 2007.

The website www.Pakistanarmy.Gov.Pk also claimed that Ahmed was a ‘Naik’ in the ‘Engineers’ arm of the Army and his formation was ‘Headquarters 30 Corps/Directorate General ISI’.

It had a few days ago listed the Army men who were killed in the war with India over their Kargil intrusions in 1999, thereby owning up that it had carried out the clandestine operation.

Meanwhile, in Islamabad, Al-Qaeda has made jihadi commander Ilyas Kashmiri as its chief military strategist for the region to plan and spearhead terrorist attacks against the West.

While, Egyptian militant Saif Al-Adal was recently named Al-Qaeda’s military chief for operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Kashmiri was made the chief military strategist following the death of Mustafa Abu al-Yazid in a US drone strike in North Waziristan in May, The News daily reported quoting sources in the Pakistani security establishment as saying.

Kashmiri is the chief of the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir chapter of the Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami and has been linked to several attacks in India, including the bombing of a bakery in Pune.

Yazid admired Kashmiri’s tactical and guerrilla skills and left a recorded audio message on the basis of which Kashmiri was appointed to the new post, the report said.

Yazid’s audiotape was released by Al-Qaeda’s media wing on June 15.

In the tape, Yazid referred to Kashmiri as an official part of Al-Qaeda, adding that terror attacks should now be carried out inside the US.

Yazid said in the same tape that Al-Qaeda’s "Kashmir faction" led by Kashmiri carried out the February 13 bombing of the German Bakery in Pune.

After Saif Al-Adal returned to the battlefield following his release by the Iranian Government in exchange for the release of an Iranian diplomat kidnapped by the Taliban in Pakistan in 2008, Kashmiri has been assigned the task of carrying out terror attacks in the West.

Sources in the Pakistani security establishment said Kashmiri had been tasked to target the West in view his global jihadi links and a "well-entrenched network of deep-cover agents in Europe and America."

Kashmiri is a "prime example of the increasing partnership" between Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda, the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and jihadi groups active in Jammu and Kashmir, whose members have assembled in Waziristan tribal region on the Afghan border, the report said.

The report said Kashmiri is "considered brutal and goal-oriented just like his Egyptian partner Saif Al-Adal, who has substantial experience cooperating with other anti-US militant groups."

There are unconfirmed reports that Kashmiri was part of the Special Services Group of the Pakistan Army in the 1990s.

He has been on the US radar since the Mumbai attacks in which several Americans were killed.

Originally a product of the Pakistani security establishment, Kashmiri fell out of favour with his spymasters when he refused to serve under the command of junior jihadi Maulana Masood Azhar after he founded the Jaish-e-Mohammad in early 2001.

He has also established himself as head of Al-Qaeda’s shadow army, Lashkar-e-Zil, and commander of Brigade 313, which is made up of members of Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, HuJI, Lashker-e-Toiba, JeM, Jundullah and other Pakistani militant groups. (PTI)

Masrat Alam admits taking Rs 40 lakh to fuel protests
*Pak used new channels to fund separatists

By Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Dec 14: Masrat Alam, a hard-line Hurriyat Conference leader, who led Kashmir unrest from June to September by issuing regular protest calendars, has so far confessed having received Rs 40 lakh from Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani through different channels to fuel the protests and incite stone pelters.

During his sustained interrogation by police after his arrest from outskirts of Srinagar more than one and a half month back, Masrat has admitted that he got Rs 40 lakh from Geelani during three months of hiding to generate protests and stone pelting incidents across the Kashmir valley.

Director General of Police (DGP) Kuldeep Khoda told the Excelsior today that police was trying to ascertain channels used by Geelani to make payments to Masrat in hiding. The sources, who were making payments to the Hurriyat chairman, are also being traced.

Mr Khoda said Pakistan has been using different channels to fund the separatists including Geelani to sustain protests, which were part of their new strategy. Some of them were paid cash during their trips to different States while some others got money through net banking. Srinagar-Muzaffarabad cross-LoC trade route has also been used for funding separatists, he added.

"It (the payment of funds to separatists and others by Pakistan) was not a simple mechanism. Had it been so simple, we would have choked it. Several channels are being used by Pakistan to fund separatists and militants’’, he said but added that police was always on the task to unravel the sources and block them.

Masrat Alam has revealed some of the channels implied by Pakistan. Police was on the job to nail the persons, who had acted as conduits between Geelani and Alam when the latter was issuing protest calendars and spreading trouble in the Valley from hiding using the funds given by Geelani, the DGP said.

He added that Masrat Alam, the new face among separatists in Kashmir, has been booked under several cases.

"It was not that everybody engaged in protests was paid. The organizers had been paid and they incited the people to hold protests and subject security forces and police to stone pelting. The militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) had also been working behind the scenes to fuel the protests’’, the State police chief disclosed.

He said in view of a sharp decline in militancy last year when it had gone an all time low, Pakistan changed its strategy this year to keep the Kashmir valley disturbed.

Under the new strategy, Pakistan encouraged separatists and other agents to incite people for mob violence. The separatists to hold street protests and mob violence exploited very small issues of public grievances, which could have been easily addressed. The simple protests were converted into ‘pro-azadi’ processions, he said.

"Now when the latest strategy of Pakistan has also failed to work, their strategists would try to introduce fresh kind of trouble in the Valley next year but we are fully prepared to deal with them’’, Mr Khoda said.

According to him, it was repeatedly observed in the Valley that minor grievances pertaining to power or water shortage or any other household problem was exploited by the separatists or their agents and people were forced to take to streets with processionists starting pelting stones on para-military and police personnel.

He said a large number of persons, who, at the behest of separatists, had exploited the local people, have been identified during investigations by police and will be booked. No body involved in encouraging mob violence leading to trouble in the Valley will be spared, he added.

Claiming that mob violence has failed, Mr Khoda said Pakistan was not ready to accept its failure.

He asserted that police had not been able to find anything on ground which could suggest that the militants had managed to take advantage of unrest in the Valley and strengthened their positions.

"There was Intelligence assessment which pointed out that the militants could have utilized to unrest to strengthen them in Kashmir. Though we are not ruling out this completely, there was no evidence either to suggest that the militants have gained from the unrest’’, he added.

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