A year after the Pulwama terror attack where 40 CRPF personnel were killed, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has not been able to trace the source of high grade explosives used by the car-borne suicide bomber.
A senior government official said the explosives could not have been purchased off the shelf as it was “warfare ammunition generally found in military stores.” A forensic report said that around 25 kg of plastic explosives were used.
The NIA probe has hit hurdles and it could not file a charge sheet as none of the key suspects are alive. Two main suspects-Mudasir Ahmed Khan and Sajjad Bhat, were killed in an encounter with security forces last year in March and June respectively.
On February 14, 2019, Adil Ahmad Dar, a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorist rammed a vehicle into a CRPF bus on the Jammu-Srinagar highway near Pulwama in south Kashmir, killing 40 CRPF personnel. Jaish is a Pakistan based terrorist outfit and is headed by UN designated global terrorist Masood Azhar.
After the attack, Jaish released a video claiming credit for the attack. They identified the attacker as Dar, a resident of Kakapora in Pulwama who joined the outfit in 2018. In the video, Dar is seen carrying a sophisticated weapon and sitting in the backdrop of a black and white flag. He says that “by the time the video was released, he would be in heaven”.
The vehicle was first sold in 2011 and resold several times before Bhat purchased it on February 4, 10 days before the attack. Mudasir Ahmed Khan, the other suspect, had arranged the explosives, the NIA said.
A senior government official said the “engine block” of the vehicle could not be recovered as it blew apart and could have been swept away after falling in a river near the site of the explosion.
“There are many unanswered questions as all the perpetrators who could have helped in piecing together the investigation were killed in encounters. The car used in the attack had changed hands several times. The last person to own the vehicle- Sajjad Bhat went on to join Jaish hours before he could be caught. He was later killed in an encounter,” the official said.
Another official said it was difficult to establish the conspiracy as the technical evidence gathered in the case could not be corroborated as none of the suspects are alive. “We do not know the financial trail, how was the car arranged? Adil Ahmad Dar, who was driving the car, was on a suicide mission. Where did he procure the explosives from, it could not be established,” said the official.
The official added that only “burnt residues” could be found at the attack site. “Had we recovered samples from a bomb that had not exploded, then tracing the source would have been easier on the basis of its composition and usage pattern. In Pulwama, all we could get was charred remains,” the official said.
Under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the investigating agency has 90 days to file a charge sheet in court but it can be extended if the suspects are dead or additional time is required.
In June, Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha that the Pulwama attack was not an “intelligence failure” and “the investigation by the NIA so far has resulted in identifying the conspirators, suicide attacker and the vehicle provider.”