Early inspection of data from global positioning sets carried by terrorists who carried out Monday’s attack in Gurdaspur suggests that the group launched its operation from across the border in Pakistan’s Shakargarh area, government sources have told The Indian Express. The sets recovered from the terrorists arrived in New Delhi Monday night for technical analysis.
The data could substantiate claims from top government officials that the attack originated in Pakistan. “We want peace with Pakistan, but not at the cost of national honour,” said Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh who is expected to make a statement in Parliament on Tuesday.
Sources familiar with the investigation said the terror team is thought to have left a safehouse on the fringes of Gharot, a village not far from the Pakistani town of Shakargarh, late Sunday night.
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Watch: Analysis of Gurdaspur Terror Attack With Praveen Swami
Travelling due east, the group then crossed a tributary of the Ravi river, and headed to the village of Bamial on the Indian side of the border.
From Bamial, investigators believe, the group caught an early morning bus that took them to the highway 1A, which links Punjab with Jammu and Kashmir and on to Hiranagar, passing several police checkpoints along the way.
The GPS sets, which guide users along tracks marked by digital “waypoints”, have often been used by terrorists to operate in unfamiliar environments, most famously during the 26/11 strikes in Mumbai.
Earlier this month, Ministry of Home Affairs officials said, the Intelligence Bureau had issued multiple warnings of strikes on military stations of the 9 Corps, headquartered at Yol in Himachal Pradesh. The 26 Infantry Division, based in Jammu, and the 29 Infantry Division, based in Pathankot, were considered at special risk because of their proximity to areas where past cross-border terror strikes had taken place.
In one Intelligence Bureau warning, sources said, plans for an infiltrating group to travel east from Gharot had been mentioned, though no information was available on its planned target or date.
The military, officials said, had stepped up security at vulnerable detachments, a development which may have led the attackers to choose a vulnerable police station instead.
Even though the Raj Bagh police station in nearby Kathua had been attacked in March, the Punjab Police had not enhanced defence preparations at its facilities, police sources said.
Investigators, the sources said, are also examining the possible role of cross-border drug cartels in providing the attackers critical information — key among it, bus routes, and the choice of the poorly-guarded police station building at Dinanagar as a target.
In 2014, the BSF recovered a record 361 kg of heroin, mainly of Afghan origin, along the India-Pakistan border in Punjab. This year, over 125 kg has been seized.
“The Army has been very concerned about the scale of these narcotics operations,” a senior military official said, “because many of the cartels are known to have links to Pakistan’s intelligence service. We have been worried they are trading information for safe passage”.
Large gaps torn by monsoon floods in the electrified fencing which runs along the India-Pakistan border in Punjab and Jammu may have helped the attackers, BSF officials said.
“Hundreds of metres of fence come down every year,” a BSF official said, “and the tall elephant grass which springs up after the rains provides infiltrators plenty of cover”.