NATIONAL

Terrorists planning fresh strikes: Army

NEW DELHI JULY 26. A day before the U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell's visit to the subcontinent, the Army has insisted that terrorists are preparing to escalate violence in Jammu and Kashmir.

The month-long lull was deceptive and there were signals that traffic among terrorists on either side of the border had picked up since the end of June. Most of the messages indicated that the killing of political activists, besides establishing bases in Jammu and Kashmir were high on their agenda, the sources said.

Basing their assessment on signal intercepts and intelligence reports from across the border, senior Army officers said terrorists, including about 500 Al-Qaeda activists and about 1,500 ``others" were planning to infiltrate in a big way in the coming days.

They would also aim to disrupt the Amarnath yatra and the Independence Day celebrations. After creating a climate of fear, their ultimate goal would be to keep away voters during elections in the State later this year.

The Al-Qaeda activists, they said, had gathered at Gultari in northern areas, which is broadly across Kargil, while militants allied to the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen were massed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Not all of them were waiting for an opportunity to cross over. Some of them were making their way into the State, though the rate of infiltration has declined.

``Infiltration has come down but not drastically,'' said a senior Army officer, while putting the percentage at 30 to 40 of the rate noticed a year ago. The Pakistan Army and its intelligence wings were continuing to provide logistic support to the militants. "Only a few can come unassisted but not all of them,'' he said.

Interestingly, the discovery of Pakistan-made food items at recent sites of encounters led him to wonder whether the terrorists were missing out on local support in Jammu and Kashmir.

Till now intelligence reports have not been indicating the banding of various organisations under a common umbrella. But such a step would not be too difficult, as several terrorists have trained with the Al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime.

Therefore, there is a certain degree of familiarisation among Al-Qaeda activists and terrorists, belonging to the JeM and the LeT.

Officials discounted the Pakistani propaganda that about five lakh Indian Army troops were massed in Jammu and Kashmir but maintained that the deployment pattern was adequate enough to combat any attempt at violence.

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