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Deep cut: why the Udhampur attack was like none other

Catch Team | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:33 IST

The strike

  • A fidayeen group attacked a BSF convoy near Udhampur
  • 2 BSF men were killed and 11 injured
  • One fidayeen was killed and another was captured

The significance

  • First fidayeen ever captured in 25 years of militancy
  • It was the attack in the area, considered militant-free for years
  • Pakistani militants showed they can strike key installations far from LoC

The reaction

  • Security experts see the attack as a bid to derail Indo-Pak talks
  • They believe it should only strengthen the resolve to sustain talks
  • Many are upset with the way the militant was paraded before TV crews

In the first such incident in the 25-year-long militancy in J&K, a fidayeen was captured alive after a strike in Udhampur on 5 August.

He was identified as Usman, 21, from Ghulam Muhammadabad in Faisalabad, Pakistan.

Usman was part of a fidayeen group that attacked a BSF convoy on the Srinagar-Jammu highway near Udhampur.

A senior police officer said the attack took place near Samroli. "Militants hurled grenades on the convoy from a hillock and followed it up with indiscriminate firing when it reached Nassu," he said on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the press.

Two BSF personnel and one of the militants, Momin Khan, were killed. Eleven BSF men were also injured.

The attack is worrying because the part of the highway attacked was militant free, says @abdullah_omar

Usman was captured by two local villagers, Rakesh Kumar and Vikramjit Singh, whom he had reportedly taken captive.

"The terrorist was hungry, so we stopped for food. Then the two of us got together, forced him to the ground and unarmed him," Vikramjit told reporters. "Rakesh caught his neck, I held on to his gun."

Udhampur Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Chaudhury confirmed their story, adding that "some Village Defence Committee members also helped in his capture." The militant was caught from a school building, he said.

Later, in a taped police interrogation on the hilltop where he was caught, Usman looked unperturbed. He smiled as he answered a barrage of queries, saying he had and Momin had entered the state 12 days ago.

Too deep for comfort

Udhampur attack Jammu militancy

One of the militants, identified as Kasim Khan from Pakistan, was caught alive after the attack on a BSF convoy in Udhumpur. Photo: PTI

Apart from the fidayeen's arrest, the incident assumes significance for another reason: it was the first attack in years along the highway, long deemed free of militancy.

The attack has, thus, raised serious questions about the deteriorating security situation in J&K. The Srinagar-Jammu highway is the valley's only road link with the rest of India.

That it was carried out by Pakistani militants makes the attack even more damning. It showed their capacity to strike sensitive installations far from the LoC and the International Border.

Indeed, the stretch of highway that was attacked is a no-man's land for militants.

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted that the attack as worrying "because the area was militant free."

The captured militant is, meanwhile, being flown to Delhi to be interrogated by the National Investigative Agency.

The NIA hopes to learn more details about the operation and the people behind it. Posing for the cameras just after his capture, Usman said he carried out the strike "for fun".

The manner in which he was paraded in front of people and camera crews has, however, not gone down well with some security experts.

It's a joke. A high-level asset shouldn't have been paraded like a pickpocket, says Lt Gen (retd) Anil Chait

"I was laughing the whole way through. Just look at the manner in which such an important source of information was interrogated by TV crews before even the army or the NIA," said Lt Gen (retd) Anil Chait.

"It's a joke," the former chief of the Integrated Defence Staff added. "I don't know how he was captured, but such a high-level asset should not have been paraded about like a pickpocket."

Time for calm

Although many saw the attack as an attempt to derail the renewed India-Pak engagement, Chait said talks between the two countries should go on.

Security experts said the two attacks, the other being the Gurdaspur strike, within the span of a week showed that the Pakistani security establishment was desperate to scuttle peace talks.

"The sooner we give up the fiction that Pakistan is involved in peace talks, the better it will be for us," said Sushant Sareen, senior fellow at the Vivekananda International Foundation.

"This is not to say the two countries shouldn't talk to each other; they must. In fact the case for dialogue becomes more solid after every such incident. Since we are only talking about terrorism, let's nail them down properly on this."

A S Dulat, former R&AW chief, agreed. "I am happy that the government took a clear line when the Gurdaspur strike happened. Our home minister didn't accuse the Pakistani government of being involved, which gives us hope that India is still interested in talks."

Dulat added that New Delhi's stance on terror strikes planned across the border has been positive so far. "The government has shown it won't be provoked and give up on talks so quickly."

First published: 6 August 2015, 12:06 IST