Praveen Swami

Rangers claim to have no control over jihadists targeting Punjab

NEW DELHI: After a series of rocket attacks in Punjab, the Border Security Force has warned that future incidents of hostile fire could invite calibre-for-calibre retaliation across the India-Pakistan border.

BSF Deputy Inspector-General of Police Mohammad Aqil informed his Pakistani counterpart, Colonel Mohammad Kamran, of India’s decision at a flag meeting held at Attari in Punjab on Monday.

Pakistan’s border police, the Rangers, claimed that the attack was carried out by non-state actors over whom they had no control, government sources told The Hindu. However, the sources said, the BSF responded that it was the Rangers’ responsibility to prevent hostile actions — and India would be left with no option but to retaliate if it failed to do so.

India’s warnings came days after rockets were fired across the border late on the night of January 8, hitting fields around the villages of Attari, More and Atalgarh. A fourth shell landed on the BSF’s Border Observation Post at Kangarh, but failed to detonate.

The attackers fired 122-mm rockets, likely from improvised platforms fabricated using metal plates and the jacks used to replace truck tyres. BSF sources said the attacks had likely been preceded by reconnaissance carried out by Pakistani nationals despatched across the border.

In July 2009, suspected jihadists fired four 107-mm improvised rocket-assisted mortar shells across the border. Three landed in India, while one exploded near a Rangers post facing the village of Pul Kanjari. In September 2009, 107-mm shells hit fields around the villages of Atalgarh, More, Rattan Kalan and Attari.

Each of the attacks, BSF ballistics experts believe, came from near the village of Gopal Singh Wala, which lies along an anti-tank ditch running along the border. The headquarters of the Satluj Wing of the Pakistan Rangers is located just a km from Gopal Singh Wala.

Following the September attack, Pakistani media sources said the head of the Gopal Singh Wala mosque was detained by the police on suspicion of having harboured jihadists.

Mohammad Khalilullah, a Tehreek-e-Taliban leader held by the Lahore police in December 2009, told the Pakistani authorities that the jihadist group had been planning to attack the flag-lowering ceremony at Wagah, which draws hundreds of visitors. Khalilullah was arrested from a safe house at Manawan, near the border.

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