Ultras target Army Commandant with car bomb2 May 2011
The Daily Excelsior
JAMMU: In a first incident of its kind, the militants triggered a car bomb blast at Birma Pul, about one km short of Udhampur town on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway this morning, targeting an Army vehicle in which Maj Gen D S Pathania, Commandant, Northern Command Hospital had a narrow escape while a civilian was killed and seven others were injured. Window panes of Maj Gen Pathania's vehicle were damaged in the blast but the senior Army officer escaped unhurt. Official sources said the militant(s) on left side of Birma Pul had parked a Maruti 800 car, laden with deadly RDX in the form of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), few yards away from the main National Highway. At 8.25 am when Maj Gen D S Pathania's vehicle reached at Birma Pul, on way from his official residence to the Command Hospital, a militant, who had mixed himself up in the area along with local passers-by, detonated the IED with a remote control device causing a massive blast. However, as the luck would have it, Maj Gen Pathania had a very narrow escape in the explosion as his vehicle had crossed the site of blast hardly by a couple of yards. Window panes of black colored Ambassador car of the Army officer were damaged in the explosion as a number of splinters struck front portion of the vehicles. However, the Army officer as well as his driver and body-guards survived the attack. Deafening sound of the explosion was heard all along the town in Udhampur as people and shopkeepers started running for safety. Taking advantage of the situation, the militant, who detonated the IED with remote control, managed to escape from the spot. Senior officers of Army and police including DIG Udhampur-Reasi range Jagjit Kumar, SSP Udhampur Surinder Gupta and Deputy Commissioner Baseer Khan rushed to the spot along with other senior officers. Security agencies and police cordoned off entire area and a massive hunt was launched for the militant. However, no arrest had been made till tonight though the investigating officers were questioning some suspects. IGP Jammu Dilbagh Singh said situation is being monitored very closely and police would be in a position to make a breakthrough in the blast very soon. He said police officers in Udhampur have been directed to ensure immediate arrest of the culprits. Bomb Disposal Squads and experts from the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) rushed to the spot to gather splinters of the explosive material used in the car. Traffic on the highway was suspended for about two hours and allowed only after the road was sanitized. Police said the car had been driven to spot using a fictitious number plate. The car was broken into several pieces with the impact of massive blast. Broken number plate, collected from the spot by the explosive experts and police, revealed that a fake number plate of JK02F 3950 or 5039 had been fitted on the vehicle. However, engine and chassis numbers of the car had been found, which could lead to identity of its owner and further clues about the militants. Preliminary investigations revealed that the car had been purchased by the first customer from Darjeeling, Siliguri. It could be a stolen vehicle, police said. The car might have exchanged some hands before reaching to the militants. According to police, the investigations were on to find out the area where the car was fitted with explosive material and driven near the bridge by the militant(s). There was a possibility that the militant, who detonated the IED with a remote control, might have driven the car himself. However, the entire operation appeared to have been executed by three to four militants, sources said, adding that needle of suspicion was going towards the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) though no terror outfit has claimed responsibility of the attack so far. The modus operandi used in triggering blast by car, scooter and cycle laden explosives had earlier been used by the LeT. Splinters of the explosion hit some civilians standing along side the road or crossing it. One of them was killed on spot while seven others were injured. The deceased has been identified as Kuldeep Kumar son of Parmanand Sharma, a resident of Krimchi, Udhampur, who was milk vendor and was waiting for the bus to return home. Four injured, who have been admitted in the Command Hospital, Udhampur, included Pawan Kumar son of Kali Dass, Sham Lal son of Dilloo Ram, both residents of Omarha, Showkat Ali son of Abdul Kareem, a resident of Lanthi and Baldev Chander. All of them were responding to the treatment. This was for the first time that a car IED was used by the militants in triggering a blast in Jammu region. Earlier, such kind of IEDs were triggered in the Kashmir valley only. Last month, the militants had killed a moderate separatist Moulana Showkat Ahmed Shah using a cycle IED in Srinagar. Sources said the militants might have used a stolen car in the blast. However, the mystery remained over filling it with deadly explosive device. Whether the car was driven to Udhampur along with explosive material or the IED was fitted near Udhampur is part of under investigation. Police have not ruled out the possibility of the hand of Banihal or Doda militants behind the attack as Army and police had recently eliminated four dreaded commanders of the LeT outfit-two each at Banihal and Kishtwar including top most commander of the outfit, Abu Moosa. Sources said target of the militants was clearly a senior Army officer. They had planted the IED near the bridge and detonated it when a senior Army officer crossed. There was no other VIP movement scheduled in the area today. Police and security agencies were taken by a surprise with such a major terror strike in Udhampur, which had been rated as a peaceful district by security agencies. Sources said police and Intelligence agencies have geared up their entire network to trace the militants and other perpetrators of the major terror strike in Udhampur town. Sources said several major installations including Northern Command Headquarters, Sher-I-Kashmir Police Academy (SKPA), offices and residences of DIG, SSP and DC Udhampur were within the range of one to two kilometers from the site of blast. However, the fact that the militants managed to plant the explosive laden car at such a sensitive places speaks the volumes of the failure of security apparatus of the district. Even at the height of militancy in the State, Udhampur town had virtually remained militancy free barring a couple of grenade attacks. Sources said the militants also wanted to make their presence felt in parts of Jammu region, where their strength had constantly been dwindling due to killing and arrests of a number of militants including the commanders and recoveries of a large quantity of arms and ammunition from them. There were intercepts that the militants in erstwhile Doda district, Rajouri and Poonch were seeking help from their associates in Kashmir. The possibility of Kashmiri militants' having executed the blast with the help of their local militants is also being looked into, sources said. They added that the experts have confirmed use of RDX in the blast. Not only the car, but the nearby shops were also hit by impact of the explosion, whose deafening sound was heard in several far off areas. Meanwhile, people of Krimchi blocked Jammu-Srinagar National Highway this afternoon at Supply Morh along with body of Kuldeep Kumar, who was killed in the blast, late this afternoon. They were demanding adequate compensation for the family of victim and arrest of the terrorists. The dharna was lifted after the people were persuaded by the police officers. Deputy Commissioner, Udhampur, Baseer Khan held a meeting of prominent citizens this evening to restore confidence among the people. He called upon the locals to give clues to police about any movement of anti-national and anti-social elements. Mr Khan said ex-gratia relief cheque has been given to families of the killed and injured. The injured would be given free treatment, he added.