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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Pulwama attack case: Dead suspect’s phone helped NIA join the dots

Not only did the phone have several numbers crucial to the probe, it also had pictures related to preparation for the attack.

Written by Deeptiman Tiwary | New Delhi |
Updated: March 9, 2020 8:13:44 am
Pulwama attack case: Dead suspect’s phone helped NIA join the dots 40 CRPF personnel were killed in the Pulwama attack. (File photo)

After months of tardy progress in the investigation into the 2019 Pulwama terror attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel, the NIA got a major breakthrough due to the recovery of the phone of a dead suspect. The memory of the phone had not been cleared. Not only did it have several numbers crucial to the probe, it also had pictures related to preparation for the attack. It was this breakthrough that paved the way for five arrests in the past few days.

In November 2019, J&K police raided the residence of a suspected Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) overground worker in south Kashmir. Among the recovered items was a mobile phone that police shared with NIA. It belonged to Pakistani terrorist Mohammed Umar Farooq.

According to the NIA, Farooq was the key man behind the blast, from planning to execution. In fact, he was sent to India in May 2018 by JeM bosses in Pakistan with the sole task of carrying out a massive attack, NIA sources said.

According to the sources, Farooq entered India through a tunnel on the International Border in Jammu and one Mohammed Abbas Rather in Pulwama gave him shelter. Rather introduced Farooq to another family in Pulwama which sheltered him several times in the next six months and also helped in the planning for the blasts, the sources said.

Rather has been arrested. So have two members of the family that allegedly sheltered Farooq — Tariq Ahmed Shah (50), and his daughter Insha Jan (23). The NIA has also arrested Shakir Bashir Magrey, a saw mill owner. Magrey allegedly conducted reconnaissance for the attack and drove the IED-laden vehicle till 500 m of the attack spot before handing it over to Adil Ahmed Dar, the suicide bomber who exploded the car near the CRPF convoy. A 19-year-old from Srinagar, Waiz-ul-Islam, who allegedly used his Amazon account to order bombmaking material, has also been nabbed.

However, until November 2019, the NIA did not know any of this. It had only identified a bunch of JeM operatives who played a role in the attack. However, all of them, including Farooq, had been killed in encounters within a month of the attack. “The case had almost hit a dead end even though we had identified the vehicle and tracked down the owners. All our suspects were dead and there were no leads. And then we got this phone,” an NIA officer said.

The phone had numbers of the people in Kashmir Farooq was in touch with and the investigators used the information to track down more suspects, said the sources. Based on the numbers found in the phone, the NIA put multiple people on surveillance and zeroed in on Magrey, Shah and Jan, the sources added. “The phone had all the pictures related to preparation for the attack. It had pictures of the IED used in the attack, of the car it was fitted into, of suicide bomber Dar before he committed the act and several other logistics. It appears these pictures were clicked to be sent to the JeM bosses in Pakistan, but those behind the attack forgot to delete them later,” an officer said.

The investigators are now looking for more overground workers who they suspect provided logistic support to the bombers, sources said.

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