Investigators probing the February 14 suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama have found shards of a material from what seems like part of a jerrycan at the site and suspect that the explosive that killed 40 CRPF men on Thursday may have been packed in this.
While much of the jerrycan has been destroyed, this material, investigators said, broke away and survived the blast. From these remains, investigators estimate that the can was not more than 20-25 litres in size and so could not have held more than 30 kg of RDX, the explosive suspected to have been used. Sleuths from the Jammu and Kashmir Police and the National Investigation Agency (NIA), jointly probing the case, have also found a metal piece that had a number written on it. Assuming it to be the chassis number, investigators are said to have traced the owner but it turned out to be a red herring — this number matched a vehicle that doesnt seem to be connected with the blast.
As reported by The Indian Express on Sunday, based on eyewitness accounts, investigations have established that the attacker was driving a red-coloured Maruti Eeco car packed with an improvised explosive device (IED) and detonated it when it came close to the fifth bus in the convoy. The convoy was moving on the Jammu-Srinagar highway when the attacker, claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed to be its recruit Adil Ahmed Dar, drove his car on the highway from a side lane in Lethpora and detonated the bomb.
Sources said that from the attack site, investigators picked up a car bumper, a few pieces of a jerrycan and the metal piece with a number.
“We believe the explosive was packed in this jerrycan but there is no way this can be traced to the owner. There is no mark that can give us any clue to where it was bought from or manufactured,” an officer aware of the investigation said.
The “chassis” piece has also led to a dead end. Investigators matched it with a car in the Valley but when a team reached the residence of the owner, it found the car there. The owner’s credentials were verified and cleared.
“It was just a clue the team was following. Probably, the metal piece was not from the chassis. And it was a coincidence that the number matched with a car. Hardly anything from the car has survived. We have picked up over 100 samples from the blast site. Everything is being verified,” the officer said.
Sources said it has also emerged that Jammu and Kashmir police generated an intelligence input only recently that convoys could be targeted with vehicle-borne IEDs between Pampore and Pulwama.
Probe teams are focusing on local logistical support allegedly provided to the attacker and have begun questioning suspects from Pulwama and Awantipora. “The two places are near the highway where the attack happened and have been the hub of JeM activities for years. It is a reasonable suspicion that the car was packed with explosives here and then driven onto the highway,” another officer involved with the probe said.
Meanwhile, Pak national and JeM member Kamran, suspected to have been killed in Monday’s encounter with security forces in Pulwama, is being touted by intelligence agencies as the man who trained Dar for the attack.
The probe has also revealed that sheer providence prevented greater casualties in the attack. “Where the attack happened, the road climbs. This meant that the bus behind the one that was attacked was at a distance of over 50 metres. On a flat stretch, they would have been closer,” the officer said.
Investigators suspect that the RDX may have been smuggled from across the border in small amounts through various JeM militants who infiltrated in the past couple of years. In a report sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in December last year, NIA had said that interrogation of several over-ground workers (OGWs) of JeM have revealed that in the past couple of years over 30 Jaish terrorists had infiltrated Kashmir through the Jammu border.