Terror crackdown on overdrive in J&K, loopholes along International Border in focus | India News

Around 50 people picked up for questioning, a high-level interstate meeting, and an order to identify all foreign nationals “illegally staying in J&K” – days after an attack on an Army convoy left five soldiers dead, the security establishment in Jammu and Kashmir has put its crackdown on terror on overdrive.

According to official sources, the meeting was attended by J&K’s Director General of Police R R Swain, his Punjab counterpart Gaurav Yadav, and Special Director General of BSF, Western Command, Y B Khurania, among others. The meeting reviewed the security grid along the International Border (IB) and discussed measures to plug any loopholes, they said.

According to sources, the security establishment believes terrorists have successfully infiltrated through the IB and managed to reach the dense forests of Machedi, which connect Basantgarh in Udhampur and Bhaderwah in Doda district.

The terrorists, suspected to be Pakistani nationals, are a fresh group that infiltrated recently. Pointing out that Lohai Malhar tehsil was a hotbed of terrorist activity between the mid-1990s and early 2000s, a retired Army officer said the area is a known infiltration route for terrorists, who often proceed towards Udhampur or Doda after crossing over from Pakistan.

The fact that the site of Monday’s terror attack is nearly 170 kilometres from the IB suggests the terrorists have traversed a large area, said a senior Army officer who has served in J&K, adding that it is unlikely this was possible without local support. In the days since the attack, security agencies have rounded up several people for questioning.

The police, Army and paramilitary personnel have also launched searches from all sides of the dense forests in Lohai Malhar to track down the attackers, who fled after firing on two Army trucks. Officials said that despite the ambush, the soldiers retaliated with a heavy volume of fire, forcing the militants to retreat.

To prevent them from moving to the forests in adjoining Udhampur district’s Basantgarh area or nearby Bhaderwah area of Doda district, the search parties from all sides are moving towards each other while combing the forests en route. Search parties on the ground are supported by helicopters and drone surveillance, in addition to sniffer dogs.

A team of the National Investigation Agency also visited the scene of the ambush to assist the police in their probe, while the Army has deployed more quick reaction teams to tackle the uptick in terror activity in Jammu region.

Officials said that General Officers Commanding (GOCs) of both the Nagrota-based White Knight Corps and Counter Insurgency Force (Delta) headquartered at Batote visited Basantgarh and Doda to assess the security situation.

Simultaneously, security forces and the police have launched searches in border areas to plug any loopholes in the security grid there. Searches were conducted in Lam sector of Rajouri district’s Nowshera area on Thursday evening following an explosion near the Line of Control the previous night. Though the explosion took place on the PoK side of the LoC, security forces are not prepared to take chances, officials said.

Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir government has ordered identification of foreign nationals illegally overstaying in Jammu and Kashmir since 2011.

In an order dated July 9, the UT’s Home Department accorded sanction for the reconstitution of a committee with the Administrative Secretary Home as chairman. The SSP, CID headquarters, J&K will be the nodal officer, and will prepare a monthly report of missing/illegally staying foreign nationals in the UT and submit it to the Home Department on the 5th of every month.

The officer will also monitor capturing of biographic and biometric details of illegal migrants and maintain up-to-date records digitally, the order states.

Thousands of foreigners, including Pakistani and Myanmar nationals, have been staying in Jammu and Kashmir. These include the wives and children of local Kashmiri militants who returned home following the J&K government’s 2010 policy for rehabilitation of misguided Kashmiri youth, who had gone to Pakistan and PoK for arms training. However, none of these youth had returned home through routes notified under the policy. As their wives and children happened to be Pakistani nationals, many of them later approached the courts seeking restraining orders against their deportation.

Monday’s terror attack at Kathua’s Badnota was the fifth since June 9, when terrorists had attacked a bus full of pilgrims, killing nine.

The next evening, two armed terrorists on their way to Udhampur knocked on the doors of a villager at Saida in Kathua district’s Hiranagar tehsil to ask for water. On being alerted by locals, the police and security forces cornered the terrorists and killed them during searches, which lasted till June 11. A CRPF jawan lost his life in the firefight.

Around the same time, terrorists in back to back attacks on police and security forces injured five soldiers and two SPOs in Doda district’s Chattergala and nearby Gandoh area. After searches, police and security forces tracked down three terrorists involved in the Gandoh attack and killed him in an encounter.

During their investigation, the police also apprehended some local over ground workers (OGWs) who had provided logistics, including food, shelter and transportation, to the terrorists.

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