‘Inside information may have led to September 26 terror attack at the mess of the 16th Cavalry in Samba’

Senior Army commanders recently expressed their suspicion that leaking of “inside information” led to the September 26 terrorist attack at the mess of the 16th Cavalry in Jammu and Kashmir’s Samba district. The attackers are believed to have been aware that only one guard was posted at the mess.

The matter came up during the recently-concluded Unified Commander’s Conference, where Army officers stressed the need to enhance security at all levels, especially at the station-commander and formation-commander levels.

Among the strategic concerns raised by Army commanders at the meeting, the issue of “espionage” among personnel featured prominently.

In May this year, a civil clerk with an Army Supply Corps battalion was found to be in touch with Pakistan and was caught handing over sensitive information to the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, said an officer.

Flagging the attacks that took place recently near the border areas, some commanders called for plugging the loopholes.

Sleeper agents

The meeting also discussed the use of Pakistani SIM cards — these made interception difficult — in Thuraya satellite phones by the country’s operatives. The commanders questioned the liberal issue of visas to a large number of visitors from Pakistan, many of whom, they said, “stayed back”. Wary of “sleeper agents” being embedded in the country for use in operations, the commanders pointed to the disturbing trend of many of such visitors going missing from the Army’s areas of responsibility.

They said a case in point was Alwar in Rajasthan where a number of pilgrims come from across the border for the annual Urs. While about 120 Pakistan nationals are allowed to cross the border for Urs every year, the commanders said that in some years, it was found, a substantial number went missing.

Impact of U.S. pullout from Afghanistan

The meeting also discussed the security concerns that will arise in J&K following the impending withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan mid-2014 and the subsequent presidential elections.

Commanders feared that the U.S.’ withdrawal might lead to a spurt in the activities of the Taliban in Pakistan that could spill over into India.

Dwelling on the issue of cyber security, the meeting discussed the issue of the ISI’s attempts to infiltrate Indian defences by spoofing telephone caller IDs and using malware to pry on crucial websites and systems. Incidentally, the Intelligence Bureau had, earlier this year, sounded an alert regarding such “espionage” attempts from across the border.

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