Pulwama Attack Happened Despite Reliable Intelligence Inputs: Report

Had the "authorities successfully acted upon" the intelligence input trail received between January 2, 2019 and February 13, 2019, the Pulwama terror strike "could have been staved off", a report in Frontline magazine has noted.

New Delhi: An investigative report on the 2019 Pulwama terror strike by Frontline has revealed that a series of intelligence inputs shared with authorities responsible for maintaining internal security, including the Jammu and Kashmir Police, between January 2, 2019 and February 13, 2019 “were not acted upon or at least not acted upon successfully”, resulting in the killing of 44 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers.

The report claims that the series of intelligence inputs in the said period also included two successive “actionable inputs” that would have “staved off the strike” had they been acted upon.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi’s Questions on Pulwama Attack: Who Benefited Most, Who Has Been Held Accountable?

“If an intelligence input is specific, say an intelligence input on terrorists includes information on their whereabouts or their identity or any other detail thereof, it is regarded as actionable intelligence,” the report quotes Ajai Sahni, executive director, Institute for Conflict Management, as saying.

Below is the list of intelligence inputs received by the security authorities prior to the deadly terror strike:

January 2, 2019: An intelligent input alerted the agencies about the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) “Qisas mission” in South Kashmir to avenge the killings of four of its terrorists in Rajpora, Pulwama. It was shared with the director general of police (DGP), Jammu and Kashmir, and inspector general of police, Kashmir, and stressed on the “veracity of the Qisas threat”.

Simply put, Qisas mission refers to retribution strikes that Jaish had been planning in response to the government’s ‘Operation All Out’, often described as kill-all-militants to put an end to the insurgency. The said operation had begun in the Kashmir Valley in 2017.

January 3, 2019: A detailed report pointing to an impending danger had been shared. To lend credence to the report, the intelligence input shared referred to 2018 inputs on Qisas mission which was followed by fatal attacks.

“It is pertinent to mention that a similar message of ‘Qisas mission 2018’ followed an attack on CRPF camp 183 Battalion Newa Pulwama, [and] abduction and killing of alleged Army informer Mushtaq Ahmad Mir, S/O Gh Rasool Mir in Sopore in the same month by JeM outfit,” Frontline quoted from the intelligence input.

January 7, 2019: It was revealed that local youths were getting trained by “a foreign mercenary” to manufacture and plant IEDs in South Kashmir.

“It is reported that a group of three militants, one among them is believed to be a foreigner active in Shopian district are imparting training to local youth in handling explosive devices. Reports further suggest that the youth are being educated in manufacturing the IEDs and throwing of hand grenade on forces,” Frontline quoted from the intelligence input.

January 18, 2019: The particular intelligence input referred to mobilisation of local youth in the Awantipora area of Pulwama district and their coordination with foreign mercenaries with a plan “to carry out any sensational activity”.

“There are reports of movement of as many [as] 20 local militants besides some foreign mercenaries in Awantipora area of Pulwama who have plans to carry out any sensational activity…,” Frontline quoted an intelligence input as saying.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paying tribute to the CRPF soldiers killed in the Pulwama attack. Photo: PTI

January 21, 2019: The impending Qisas strike was further reiterated, referring to information on sustained and coordinated activities of terror cadre. It specifically mentioned in bold letters that the JeM was planning an attack to avenge the killing of Massod Azhar’s nephew Talha Rasheed.

January 24, 2019: This could be treated as crucial “actionable input”, specifically pointing out that Mudasir Khan-led JeM module was working on a “nefarious plot”. It was eventually revealed that Mudasir Khan was the kingpin of the attack.

“Reports reveal that (2/3) FTs of JeM outfit have reported to JeM militant Mudasir Khan @ Mohammad Bhai group Awantipora for carrying out some special task viz. major fidayeen attack in coming days. The group is also in contact with Shahid Baba group of JeM Rajpora Pulwama,” Frontline quotes from an intelligence report.

January 25, 2019: Building on the previous day’s input, the January 25th input said that it has the knowledge of  Mudasir Khan’s location. In bold letters, the input said that Khan was “spotted in villages Midoora and Lam Tral” along with four foreign mercenaries.

In fact, it underscored that the group was planning an attack in the coming days and “had possibly zeroed in on Awantipora or Pampore as the location for executing it”.

The Frontline states both January 24 and 25 as “actionable inputs”, and indicated that there were at least three weeks time available to act on specific intelligence and apprehend or exterminate Mudasir Khan and foil his [Pulwama] plot.

February 9, 2019: Closer to February 14, the day when the attack was carried out, more inputs poured in February 2019 about “impending Qisas strike”. The February 9th input warned of an attack by JeM to  “reprise Afzal Guru’s hanging”. The input had been shared with ADG, CRPF, J&K Zone, among others.

February 12, 2019: Read as “top secret, matter most urgent”, the February 12th input was about a Twitter handle, Shah GET 313 @313_get.

“The handle was monitored on regular basis, and on 12.02.2019 the handle hinted to carry out IED blasts along the routes being used by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir along with a video demonstrating an IED blast. In this regard an input was shared on MAC/SMAC platform vide Input ID No. 334808 dated 12.02.2019 at 19:27:41 [hours],” the intelligence input read.

MAC or Multi-Agency-Centre is an Intelligence Bureau platform. It is a nodal body functioning 24×7 for sharing of intelligence and facilitating coordination among representatives of numerous agencies.

February 13, 2019: The final warning came on February 13, the day before the attack was carried out. It said, “IED attacks along the routes of security forces across Jammu and Kashmir.”

Mudasir Khan’s antecedents 

Mudasir Khan was a known terrorist in South Kashmir, and was wanted in the 2017 Lethpora attack on a CRPF camp that claimed the lives of five personnel. Not only was he leading the main JeM group in the region but also a subsidiary group of the Jaish, which had until then was led by terrorist Shahid Baba.

On February 1, following the elimination of Shahid Baba, Mudasir Khan assumed leadership of the sub-group.

“Adil Ahmad Dar, the 19-year-old local suicide bomber who carried out the February 14 strike, was affiliated to the Shahid Baba group, and upon Baba’s elimination, probably took instructions from Mudasir Khan,” the Frontline report reads.

“Our local sources in Pulwama, who were close to Mudasir Khan and Shahid Baba, told us on January 22 that the two were planning something big, while also sharing information on the places where the two had been last seen,” the investigative report quoted a highly-placed source as saying.

Investigations after the February 14 attack revealed that Khan was the main conspirator, and was eliminated in an anti-militancy operation by the security forces in Tral’s Pinglish area on March 11, 2019.

On the other hand, a day before the Pulwama attack, on February 13, the J&K Police transferred the superintendent of police, Awantipora, Mohammad Zaid, raising doubts whether if it was prudent on the part of security agencies to go ahead with a reshuffle “at a time [when] terror threat was looming”.