Hizbul Mujahideen’s ambition of carrying out an attack on the lines of the February 2019 suicide car bombing in Pulwama may have been fulfilled on Thursday had security agencies not received last-minute intelligence about the movement of a car packed with a powerful bomb in the area, two counter-terrorism officers said.
Troops of Jammu and Kashmir’s Special Operations Group (SOG), Rashtriya Rifles, and the 182nd and 183rd battalions of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) secured all the routes to Pulwama and set up checkpoints on Wednesday night after receiving information that a Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist was driving a white Santro car laden with explosives, the officers said on condition of anonymity.
Thy were told that the terrorist may be targeting a convoy of troops or planning to ram the explosive-laden car into a security forces camp.
The car, fitted with a powerful bomb made of around 40-45 kg of ammonium nitrate and nitroglycerin, was spotted at Ayangund, Rajpora in Pulwama around 2.30 am on Thursday.
The terrorist – identified as Adil – managed to flee through the jungles, but security agencies averted a repeat of the February 14, 2019 Pulwama suicide bombing in which 40 CRPF troopers were killed. The attack carried out by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror group prompted the Indian Air Force to bomb a JeM terror camp in Pakistan’s Balakot and brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war.
The two counter-terrorism officials cited above said three camps – two of the CRPF’s 183rd battalion and one of the Rashtriya Rrifles — were located within 3 km and 5 km of Ayangund where the car was intercepted. The area was evacuated by dawn and the bomb-laden vehicle was allowed to explode by bomb disposal squads because defusing it manually was deemed too risky, one of the officers said.
J&K director general of police Dilbagh Singh said the attack was suspected to have been planned by JeM and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). “This is a Jaish and Lashkar joint operation. But the (terror) factory is located in Pakistan, whether it produces terrorists of Hizbul, Jaish or the TRF (The Resistance Front),” he said.
J&K Police Inspector General Vijay Kumar said It was not the first time terror groups in Kashmir had worked together. JeM, LeT and HM have regularly used each other’s resources and network of “overground workers” to carry out attacks on security forces or civilians, he said.
At least five Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists disclosed to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), after a failed car bombing on a CRPF convoy in Banihal on March 30, 2019, that the HM leadership aspired to carry out a Pulwama-like attack. The NIA will take over the probe of Thursday’s planned attack as well.