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Saturday, 27 February 2016

From Today's Papers - 27 Feb 2016

New Pak team for Pathankot attack probe
Islamabad: Pakistan has set up a five-member Joint Investigation Team to probe the terror attack on the Pathankot air base, a week after it lodged an FIR without naming JeM chief Masood Azhar, who India accuses of being the mastermind.

The team, formed by the Punjab Government, is expected to visit India “shortly” to gather evidence if given permission.

Earlier, a six-member Special Investigation Team was set up to probe the leads given by India. The SIT would become dysfunctional once the government transfers its powers to the JIT.

The FIR was lodged on the basis of information provided by NSA Ajit Doval that the attackers crossed into India and attacked the air base on January 2. — PTI
CRPF dispels militant threat to high-rises, residents worried
Samaan Lateef

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, February 26
Security forces have brushed aside the vulnerability of high-rise buildings for being used by militants to carry out attacks on security forces, saying the recent Pampore attack was a one-off thing and will not be a trendsetter. People who work or live close to these high-rises are worried about their safety.

The priority of militants is to attack a security picket and hide in a nearby built-up area to extend the gunfight, said top security officials. “The JKEDI attack is one of the attacks and does not necessarily mean that suicide attacks will increase in Kashmir,” said Nalin Prabath, IG (Operations), CRPF.

In the ongoing “asymmetric warfare” in Kashmir with several militant outfits present in the Valley, Prabath said security forces took suicide attacks very seriously. “Security forces and not buildings are the target of militants and not the buildings,” he said.

The IG said militants first attacked a security picket to get noticed and then hid in a nearby built-up area for stretching the time of the gunfight.

In the attack on the Srinagar outskirts, militants used a multi-storey building of the JKEDI to target security forces. The 48-hour-long assault that began on Saturday ended when security forces, backed by UAVs, fired mortars on the last attackers who had seized the building.

Three Army commandos — including two Captains, two CRPF men, three militants and a civilian were killed during the three-day standoff between militants and security forces.

Srinagar has seen a construction boom in recent years, but many buildings that have come up near security installations have created fear psychosis among people following the JKEDI attack.

“We have several buildings around the Civil Secretariat and Assembly, which can be easily used by anyone who wants to attack them,” said Showkat Ahmad, living in Shaheed Ganj locality near the Chief Minister’s office.

Srinagar has such buildings all over the city; some close to military installations. “These buildings have been built by ignoring norms. They pose a security threat,” said a private bank employee working at a multi-storey building in Lal Chowk.

A senior police official said the security of multi-storey buildings at strategic places in Srinagar would be reviewed for the safety of people.
350-km LoC in Kashmir valley has 40-50 infiltration routes
Majid Jahangir

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, February 26
The nearly 350-km-long Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir has many “porous infiltration avenues” which are close to launch pads across the fence, claimed defence sources. 

There are of 40-50 routes where from militants find it easy to sneak into the Valley, sources said.

Even if the LoC is buried deep under snow the infiltration never seizes. The militants killed in the recent gunfights at Chowkibal in Kupwara district and Pampore in Pulwama district had “infiltrated recently”.

The Army, however, has maintained that infiltration from across the LoC into Kashmir was down to a “trickle” as compared to infiltration figures of earlier years.

Defence sources said that infiltration avenues are correlated with launching pads, general areas and the reception area.

“The group of trained militants is put at a launch pad in PoK where they are provided weapons. They along with a guide do probing actions for five to six days along the LoC before sneaking into the Valley,” said a Defence official. “And when Pakistani Army fires at our posts, the waiting militants get an opportunity to sneak in as our observation gets affected.”

The official said infiltration routes keep on changing from time to time and over the years some routes have become active while others have turned dormant.

Of late, major infiltration attempts are being made in the frontier Kupwara sector and it is turning out to be a key area for militants to sneak into the Valley.

The infiltration along the LoC in Baramulla and Bandipora districts has dipped even though militants have not stopped infiltrating through these sectors.

Sources said there were 16-17 launching pads across the LoC in the Kashmir region.

The LoC in Kashmir runs from lofty peaks of Gulmarg in Baramulla to Kupwara and Gurez in Bandipora district.

Along its long and arduous course the LoC also passes through several fresh water streams. It is fenced with barbed wire and sophisticated equipment like UAVs, high-power cameras, thermal imagers and long-range observation system to notice any movement.

Two divisions of Army —one based in Baramulla and another in Kupwara man the stretch. The easiest and shortest infiltration route to the Valley is through the Keran sector.

The sector, sources said, has three infiltration avenues. Though there is heavy presence of Army in the area to counter any infiltration attempts, militants often try to enter into Kashmir through this sector.

After Keran, the other favourite infiltration route in Kupwara is Machil. Almost all the infiltrators coming into the Valley through the Kupwara sector have to cross the vast Shamsabari forest range to reach the hinterland.

The Tangdhar sector in frontier Kupwara district had been laid inactive for a long time, but since last six years the route has got activated again.

The toughest infiltration route, however, is through the Gurez sector of Bandipora district.

Militants sneak through Kanzalwan and Nowshewra ridges before entering Bandipora. The Gurez sector is surrounded by 14,000-feet high mountain range.

In the Uri sector of Baramulla, traditional infiltration routes emanate from high mountain passes. The sector is dormant now unlike past when it was the favourite route for militants. Same is the case with Gulmarg, which has not seen much activity in the recent past.

“The routes can get active any time as launch pads are there to push militants,” said another Defence official.
Commander warns of calls from Pak agents
Pune: The Southern Command of the Indian Army has sounded an alert against Pakistani intelligence agents targeting its officers and jawans as well as civilians, including children of services personnel, for defence related information through dubious calls, claiming to be senior Indian Army officers or civilian authorities.

Southern Army Commander Lt Gen Bipin Rawat said here on Friday, "We are getting a lot of calls from Pakistani agents. They call up anybody to ask information. Earlier, such calls were restricted to the Indian Army officers but, of late, the scope is expanding to our jawans and anybody who can give defence related information.

"For instance, railway station masters in forward areas like Jaisalmer and Jodhpur in Rajasthan that witness troop movements, people associated with defence equipment procurement, food and essential supplies and even children of services personnel," he said.

Rawat, who took over as the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief at the Headquarters, Southern Command, in January, was speaking informally to reporters at the National War Memorial. "We need to make people aware and guard against such calls. People should contact the nearest police or army unit in case of getting such a call so that the authorities can trace it," he added.

He said, "Our men get a lot of calls where, for instance, the caller claims to be a brigadier from the army headquarters or some senior army official. Sometimes our gullible jawan, who is under confusion that a brigadier is calling from the army headquarters and his officer is not available, finds himself vulnerable as the caller asks for information like who is the officer on the desk, who is the army commander, where is he or is he going anywhere for an exercise."

Rawat said, "Some of the railway station masters keep getting calls, wherein the caller claims to be a divisional railway manager or some senior railway authority and seeks information about the movement of troops. This has happened in forward areas like Jaisalmer and Jodhpur in Rajasthan."

He said, "Now, even students of Kendriya Vidyalayas and children of services officers and personnel are getting these calls seeking information about their father, whether he has gone on some army exercise etc."

On the terror threat to the Southern Command headquarters, as was evident from jailed Pakistani-American terror operative David Coleman Headley's recent deposition before a Mumbai court trying the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, Rawat said, "We have to be wary about attempts by terror elements to disrupt economic growth and development in heavy capital investment places like Mumbai and Pune."

He said, "We have a neighbour who has decided to involve us in a proxy war and anywhere we are seeing development taking place, it is not to their liking and they would try to disrupt this development."

Myanmar opts out from 'Exercise Force 18'

The southeast Asian country of Myanmar, which is going through a transition phase from a military to a democratic regime, has withdrawn its participation from the multinational training event, 'Exercise Force 18', involving Asean and Plus countries.

Another Asean country, Cambodia, will be sending its observers for the largest ever multinational training exercise being hosted by the Indian Army in Pune from March 2 to 8.

"Myanmar has cited its own internal compulsions for dropping out from the exercise. Cambodia is yet to have an established structure of army that can participate in UN peacekeeping missions. Hence, it has decided to send observers," Southern Army Commander Lt Gen Bipin Rawat said.

The exercise will focus on UN peacekeeping and humanitarian mine removal activities. It will feature various demonstrations by the participating contingents.

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