Updated: June 29, 2016 3:55:20 pm
THE JAMMU-SRINAGAR national highway is 300 km long. But it is the 35-km stretch between Bijbehera town to Pampore in South Kashmir that is turning out to be a headache for security forces. In the past seven months, militants have targeted forces on more than six occasions on this segment, resulting in more than a dozen casualties.
The latest attack on Saturday left eight CRPF personnel dead and 22 injured, with Lashkar-e-Toiba claiming responsibility for the attack.
WATCH VIDEO: Video Of Pampore Attack Taken From An Army Vehicle
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According to a senior police officer, despite several attacks since December 2015 (see box, page 2), there has been little increase in deployment of forces on this vulnerable stretch close to Srinagar. Saturday’s attack has, however, come as a wake-up call, forcing top security officers to conduct reviews.
On Monday, as many as 29 security vehicles were deployed between Pampore and Bijbehera, some of them armoured. Road Opening Party (ROP) units — comprising both CRPF and army personnel — also kept watch from vintage points.
Agreeing that the 35-km stretch was turning out to be a death trap, Inspector General of CRPF, Nalin Prabhat, said: “There are many reasons for this. The national highway, Jhelum river and the railway track crisscross here, so it becomes easy for militants to target security forces.”
Besides, he said, the terrain also favours such attacks.
According to Prabhat, villages on both sides of the road between Bijbehera and Pampore have several “overground workers” (or OGW, security jargon for sympathisers) who help militants carry out attacks. “The Lashkar has a good network of OGWs in areas adjacent to the national highway, and they pass information about security forces to the militants. The Hizb is also present, but Lashkar’s presence is very strong.”
On Saturday, it was with the help of OGWs that the two Pakistani militants are said to have carried out the attack. “We need to take strong action against these OGWs. If we ignore them, tomorrow two more Pakistani militants will come and strike any other place on the highway,’’ said Prabhat.
Top police officers agree that militants have taken advantage of thickly populated areas and slow movement of traffic on the stretch due to ongoing work on four-laning the highway. “After attacking a convoy, militants take shelter in densely populated areas of Bijbehera and Pampore with the help of sympathisers,’’ a senior police officer in Bijbhera said.
According to him, after attacking a convoy, militants hope to provoke security forces into opening retaliatory fire in a way that civilians get killed. “Due to presence of civilians, we can’t go all-out in retaliation. But that is what the militants want.’’
Major attacks on the 35-km stretch between Bijbehera and Pampore
June 25: 8 CRPF personnel killed after militants open fire at convoy in Pampore.
June 3: Three BSF personnel killed in militant attack on convoy at Bijbehera.
April 8: Two civilians injured when militants target army vehicle.
February: Two CRPF personnel killed in Pampore attack.
December 2015: A DSP and a J&K Police officer seriously injured in Pampore.
December 9, 2015: Two militants killed when police and CRPF intercept a vehicle near Pampore.
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