Terror attacks in Jammu: Cell phone intercepts link militants to Pakistan, say top officials

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The government has evidence in the form of phone intercepts to link the terrorists involved in the attack on an army camp in Sunjuwan to Pakistan, according to top officials dealing with the strike and its aftermath. Three terrorists linked to the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) attacked the army camp on Saturday morning, killing six soldiers and a civilian.

The three terrorists regularly used mobile phones and were in communication with their handlers in Pakistan and in South Kashmir, the officials added. “Somebody from Pakistan controls them and they were in conversation with them and were also communicating with a Pakistani national who they were reporting to in the Valley,’’ SP Vaid, director general, Jammu and Kashmir police said. According to the officials, the terrorists made several calls soon after they stormed the Sunjuwan camp in the early hours of February 10. The operation which lasted over 48 hours was finally called off on Monday. “In the intercepted calls, the handlers can be heard telling the terrorists to inflict maximum damage,’’ an official familiar with the investigation into the attack said, asking not to be identified.

The terrorists came to Sunjuwan near Jammu from South Kashmir and were carrying mobile phones with them, the officials said. In another conversation, the terrorists were being directed to particular rooms within the Sunjuwan complex and the investigators believe that the handlers had “some information about the layout of the camp’’. This also indicates that the terrorists were helped by locals who may also have played a role in providing them arms and ammunition. “It is unlikely that they travelled with arms all the way from South Kashmir to Sunjuwan,’’ a second official familiar with the investigation said on condition of anonymity.

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in Jammu on Monday that Pakistan would pay for the “misadventure”. The strong statement by her was made on the basis of the intercepts, the first official said. Sitharaman said that intelligence inputs showed that the terrorists were controlled by their handlers from across the border.

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The intercepts will be a part of the dossier that the minister said would be shared with Pakistan. India shared similar evidence with Pakistan after the suicide attack at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot in January 2016. Those terrorists had similarly called their handlers in Pakistan from within the air force base and Pakistan’s foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz had then conceded that one of the calls had been tracked to the Jaish headquarters in Bahawalpur. Officials drawn from the National Investigation Agency and multiple intelligence agencies are now probing the numbers to which the Sunjuwan terrorists placed calls. The evidence will be shared with Pakistan after the probe is completed, the officials said.