April 2000 News

Better-armed militants pose a bigger threat to securitymen in Kashmir

26 April 2000
Times of India
Ravi Bhatia

New Delhi: Access to sophisticated arms, including short-range surface-to-air missiles and rockets, has considerably increased the firepower of terrorist groups active in the Kashmir Valley and authorities fear this could lead to an increase in casualties among security personnel. Over 70 securitymen are reported to have been killed this year, even before the onset of summers when militant activity is stepped up. Last year, 356 security personnel were killed in anti-terrorist operations in Kashmir, while 232 were killed in 1998. Security officials say attacks and encounters increase during summer when the Valley becomes more accessible because of the melting of snow in the passes. ''This is when the casualty figure shows a steep increase,'' says a security officer. Intelligence sources say there are reports from across the border that Pakistan''s Inter-Services Intelligence and other support groups have stepped up supply of extremely sophisticated weapons to terrorist outfits operating in Kashmir. The militants earlier used only assault rifles, grenades and explosives but recent seizures indicate they are now in possession of sophisticated weapons with night-vision devices and heavy mortars, rockets and even short-range missiles. ''This has added a new dimension to the proxy war and this increase in the terrorists'' firepower is causing considerable damage,'' a senior security officer said. Intelligence reports also suggest that the terrorist groups active in the Valley are now more organised - possibly because of the induction of well-trained mercenaries - and have been targeting security personnel and camps. ''This is basically to demoralise the security personnel and cause as much damage as possible,'' a senior analyst says. Official sources here say the authorities are aware of these developments and are reviewing the strategy to combat terrorism in the Valley. ''The developments both within the Valley and in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, considered to be the launching pad of terrorists, are being monitored closely,'' says a senior home ministry official.


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