Small magnetic bombs that have wreaked havoc in Afghanistan have been seized in raids in recent months in the disputed region, officials said.
Security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir are alarmed by the recent arrival in the disputed region of small magnetic bombs which have wreaked havoc in Afghanistan.
‘Sticky bombs’, which can be attached to vehicles and detonate from a distance, have been seized in raids in recent months in the Jammu and Kashmir region, three senior security officials told the agency. Reuters press release.
“These are small IEDs and quite powerful,” said the police chief of the region, Vijay Kumar, referring to the improvised explosive devices.
“This will certainly have an impact on the current security scenario as the volume and frequency of movement of police and security forces vehicles is high in the Kashmir Valley.”
The Indian government inundated Kashmir, already one of the most militarized regions in the world, with more troops in August 2019, when it split the country’s only Muslim-majority state into two federally administered territories.
The arrival of the sticky bombs in Indian-administered Kashmir – including 15 seized in a February raid – raises fears that a baffling tactic attributed to Taliban fighters in neighboring Afghanistan could spill over into the Indo-Pakistan conflict.
Afghanistan has seen a spate of sticky bomb attacks in recent months targeting security forces, judges, government officials, civil society activists and journalists.
The attacks – some victims sitting in traffic – sowed fear, while avoiding significant civilian casualties.
None of the devices seized in Kashmir were produced there, a senior security official said, suggesting they were smuggled from Pakistan. “All of them came via drones and tunnels,” he said, asking not to be named.
The Himalayan region of Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan, neighbors with nuclear weapons, each claiming it in full but administering only part of it.
India accuses Pakistan of supporting the rebellion against its presence in Kashmir, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives since the 1990s. Pakistan denies the accusation, saying it provides only moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people who are fighting for self-determination.
New Delhi tried to maintain a tight grip on the Kashmir Valley, where mobile broadband internet was suspended for 18 months until February of this year, but the rebellion stalled.
Officials said the bombs are of particular concern because they can be easily attached to vehicles using magnets, potentially allowing rebels to carry out assassinations or target military convoys that regularly ply the valley.
In February 2019, a suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden car in a convoy to Pulwama in Kashmir, killing 40 soldiers – the deadliest attack on Indian forces in the region – bringing India and Pakistan to the brink of ‘a new war.
Police chief Kumar said security forces were changing protocols to deal with the new threat. The measures included increasing the distance between private and military traffic, installing more cameras on vehicles, and using drones to monitor convoys.
One difference between the fighters in Kashmir and Afghanistan is that the Taliban have a formidable ability to move around urban and rural areas, which, along with the ease of availability of explosives, makes bombs a powerful threat.
The Taliban, who initially said they were behind some of the attacks, have since denied any involvement in the attacks.
“The Taliban have targets, can hit and kill them with impunity. The entire structure of the attack – and its endless repetition – is what makes the bomb effective, ”said Avinash Paliwal, senior lecturer in international relations at SOAS University in London.
“In Kashmir, the space for such maneuverability is limited.”