There was no specific intelligence input on the dastardly terror attack on the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy which killed over 40 paramilitary personnel near Awantipora along the Srinagar-Jammu highway in Pulwama district on Thursday, K. Vijay Kumar, Advisor to the Governor, Jammu & Kashmir, told The Hindu .
Talking over the phone from Srinagar, Mr. Kumar on Friday said there was an input of a possible Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror module in Srinagar during the Republic Day celebrations. Security arrangements, vehicle checks and other anti-sabotage operations were intensified to prevent any attack.
“We did not know when and where the attack was planned then. But armed forces were put on high alert to follow standard security protocol. After one of the prime suspects was shot dead in an encounter, there was no other follow-up information. As regards Thursday’s attack on the CRPF convoy, there was no intelligence giving any precise details...had there been any such information we would have taken steps to pre-empt it,” he said.
Asked why the CRPF personnel were not airlifted considering the threat perceptions in the State, he said airlifting security forces was not a solution to the problem. Even if aircraft were to be deployed between Jammu and Srinagar, the men would have to anyway depend on the roads to travel from the Srinagar airport to other locations.
Asked how the explosives-laden vehicle managed to reach the convoy without being intercepted on the highway, Mr. Kumar said that it was impossible to sanitise the road since there were at least 70 intersections, 35 on each side. Moreover, the density of vehicles was very high and clamping restrictions such as vehicle checks would lead to congestion and inconvenience to the civilian people.
“There are dozens of intersections connecting villages along the highway. Vehicles can come through these intersections and join the highway...”
Forensic experts from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the National Security Guards (NSG) were conducting a preliminary investigation on the nature and source of the explosives used by the suicide bomber. It is possible that the explosives could have been smuggled across the border over a period of time and stashed in the valley for use later.
Mr. Kumar said the attack on the CRPF convoy was carried out by a lone suicide bomber. There was no firing after the explosion as reported by a section of the media. “But we have to investigate aspects like who masterminded the attack, whether they conducted any recce, was there anybody tracking the movement of the vehicles from Jammu, etc.”
The movement of security forces in convoy would continue in the State with some restrictions. Police pickets had been put up at vantage points. However, the focus would not be fully on vehicle movements since the attack could be an attempt to divert attention and target elsewhere.
There was no travel advisory and tourists were safe to enter the State. “There is no threat to tourism in the valley. People are free to come and travel,” Mr. Kumar said after attending a meeting in which Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the situation.