India’s efforts to hold Pakistan accountable for the attack on a camp near the 12 Infantry Brigade headquarters in Uri escalated on Tuesday with Islamabad’s envoy to New Delhi, Abdul Basit, being summoned to the Ministry of External Affairs to be presented with evidence that the attack originated from territory under Pakistan’s control.
The National Investigation Agency earlier announced the arrest of two men it says “facilitated” last week’s strike which claimed the lives of 18 soldiers.
Yasin Khursheed, said to be a resident of Khiliana Kalan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’s Muzaffarabad, and Faisal Hussain Awan, a resident of Potha Jahangir, disclosed during interrogation that they were ordered to “facilitate infiltration of a group of four Jaish-e-Muhammad cadre who carried out the Uri army camp attack”, the Ministry of External Affairs said.
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar offered High Commissioner Basit consular access to the arrested individuals during their meeting — their second since the Uri attacks. Earlier, the Foreign Secretary had informed Basit about the recovery of items with Pakistani markings from the terrorists, including food and clothing, as well as a Global Position System set.
In a statement, the NIA said Awan identified one of the four slain terrorists who attacked the 12 Brigade headquarters as Hafiz Ahmad, who he said was the son of Feroze, in the village of Dharbang, west of Murree. “Further interrogation of the two men is being done”, the NIA said.
Few other details were released on the two men but sources said they are suspected of having brought up to five groups of Jaish-e-Muhammad jihadists across the Line of Control starting in February, 2015, allegedly receiving between Rs 25,000 and Rs 50,000 for helping infiltrating groups evade military patrols and ambushes.
Sources familiar with Khursheed’s interrogation said he is believed to have been recruited by an individual so far identified by the single name Basharat, who ran a school where the 19-year-old studied until he discontinued his education in Grade 7.
Sources said they were now in possession of a Global Positioning System set recovered from the site of the terror attack, and were seeking assistance from technical experts to see if data could be recovered from it to track the route taken by the terrorists. External Affairs Ministry and NIA officials also said in separate statements that the two men were “apprehended by villagers due to their suspicious movement in Uri sector and handed over to the security forces”.
Local residents corroborated this account, telling The Indian Express the men had initially denied wrongdoing, saying they had inadvertently crossed the LoC from a village called Kaliana Khurd — across the LoC from Kashmir’s Kupwara. Following a beating by villagers, local residents said, the men claimed to be Jaish-e-Muhammad cadre.
However, a PTI report dated September 21 quoted Army sources as saying that the “two men were apprehended in a joint operation by the Army and BSF close to the LoC ”. The PTI report added that “one of arrested men is believed to have acted as a guide for the four.
Later, the suspects gave investigators varying accounts, one to a doctor working for the Central Reserve Police Force that they had participated in the attack itself, providing details of how incendiary substances were used to set the tents at the 12 Brigade on fire.
It was unclear if the arrest of the two men was linked to surveillance targeting jihadist groups in the Uri region, which had led the Intelligence Bureau to issue an warning on September 15, warning of imminent strikes on an “army establishment”. The Jammu and Kashmir Police, sources said, had also issued a warning on August 25, stating that a strike by a joint Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish unit on Uri’s helipad was being planned.
Basit, the External Affairs Ministry said, was also confronted with the unrelated arrest of a third Pakistani national, named as Sialkot resident Abdul Qayoom. Qayoom, the Ministry of External Affairs said, had confessed to “undergoing three weeks of training with the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba and donating substantial funds to Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, their front organisation”.