India Today


- By Moazum Mohammad in Srinagar

Long before the US withdrew its troops from Afghanista­n in August 2021, Taliban insurgents were using this guerrilla tactic to subvert its ground strength and set off bursts of violent mayhem. That too with a simple device: small sticky bombs planted on vehicles carting the enemy. Inspired by its success, Kashmir is now witnessing the entry of this new weapon of offence alongside a shift in the tactical armoury of militancy itself.

Security forces woke up to the threat after a drone consignmen­t was recovered in Samba along the LoC on February 14. Cheap and portable, a sticky bomb packs RDX or TNT into a small box, has a magnet to fix it to the target metal surface, and is detonated remotely with a timer. The security establishm­ent is a bit spooked by the spectre because it can change the rules of engagement in the Valley—especially since planting these IEDs needs no special training. “It just needs two open wires to be connected to activate a blast,” says Jammu ADGP Mukesh Singh. Hence, the skill threshold needed to carry out blasts like the one on May 13— when a bomb affixed to the fuel tank of a pilgrim bus en route to Vaishno Devi killed four and left nearly two dozen wounded—is considerab­ly lowered.

Originally developed as an antitank weapon by the British army during World War II, sticky bombs found their way into the Afghan war—and, in its wake, have now travelled further east. Not that it was entirely unknown in India: it was a sticky bomb affixed to a car that had left an Israeli diplomat’s wife wounded in New Delhi in February 2012. But it’s now being increasing­ly felt as a threat on the ground in a new battlefiel­d: Kashmir. On March 9, a civilian was killed and 16 injured in a crowded market of Udhampur, Jammu. It took the J&K police two and a half months to track down the alleged culprit, Mohammad Ramzan Sohil of Halla Bohar Dhar in Ramban district. He had apparently detonated a sticky bomb on the directions of Pakistanba­sed LashkareTo­iba (LeT) militant Mohammad Amin ‘Khubaib’. Two more magnet bombs were recovered from two others, Khurshed Ahmed of Motla Dessa and Nisar Ahmed Khan of Bhaderwah, says ADGP Singh.

On May 29, a North Korean hexacopter with a payload of seven sticky bombs and a UBGL (under barrel grenade launcher) was shot down in

Cheap and portable, the potential use of sticky bombs by militants is a new threat for the Amarnath pilgrimage

Kathua. The haul was seen as a source of relief ahead of the Amarnath Yatra which starts on June 30. But a top police officer says it’s just “the tip of the iceberg”—many such consignmen­ts have reached the hands of militants. That revelation came during the interrogat­ion of recently arrested ‘hybrid militants’—those who lead a normal family life during inactive times. The upsurge in target killings this year—19 murders, including that of Kashmiri Pandits, civic body officials and policemen—is ascribed to such hybrid militants.

Former Indian army chief Gen. M.M. Naravane has flagged another “major cause of concern”—USmade weapons left behind in Afghanista­n making their way to Kashmir. Sophistica­ted handguns, nightvisio­n devices, steelpierc­ing bullets, M16 assault rifles, M4 carbines...these are just some of the arms recovered recently after raids and gunfights. The Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the UN Security Council has written about the ties between the Taliban and Kashmirfoc­used terror groups in Pakistan like the LeT and JaisheMoha­mmed.

The sticky bomb threat, though, is what worries security forces most. ADGP Singh says his force has adopted measures including “SOPs and intensifie­d vigil to counter the new threat”. Patrolling and deployment has been stepped up along highways and arterial roads, where security convoys move.

But the 43day Amarnath Yatra—resuming this year after a twoyear hiatus caused by the pandemic—is creating some nervousnes­s, especially after a militant group warned it “would spill blood”. A senior security official says the strategy has been reworked to ensure smooth passage for the half a millionplu­s pilgrims expected. In a security huddle in Srinagar on June 14, J&K DGP Dilbagh Singh directed special traffic regulation­s and drones and CCTVs for close surveillan­ce.

The whole shift comes against a background, of course. Defence expert and exarmyman Pravin Sawhney says, “Things have changed after India crossed the red line by revoking Article 370. China and Pakistan are carefully monitoring the situation in the Valley, and using the frustratio­n on the ground for their own strategic ends.” ■

 ?? ?? MOVING TARGETS (Clockwise from L) The hexacopter that was shot down in Talia Haria Chak, Kathua, May 29; sticky bombs and UBGLs that were recovered
MOVING TARGETS (Clockwise from L) The hexacopter that was shot down in Talia Haria Chak, Kathua, May 29; sticky bombs and UBGLs that were recovered
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