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Pathankot attackers had an alternate target: NIA

An intermittent delay in reaching the Pathankot Air Force in Punjab had almost prompted Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) to change their plans and attack a local police station instead of the air force base.

The information is part of several other conversations, accessed by National Investigation Agency (NIA), which took place between the JeM attackers and their handlers based in Pakistan. The conversations also include chats which took place during and after the attack between JeM handlers and other individuals based in Pakistan.

According to the probe conducted by NIA, four attackers, who belonged to Pakistan based JeM, grew wary due a delay and had spoken about their concern to Kashif Jan, a senior JeM member through a telephonic conversation.

The attackers, all of whom were Pakistani nationals, had made calls to their handler to update him about their movement once they had crossed the border. At around 3.31 am on January 1, 2016 the handler, identified as Kashif, referred as Ustadji by the attackers, made a call on a phone which the attackers had snatched from Ikagar Singh, a taxi driver who was killed by the Pakistani nationals.

“The conversation revealed that they discussed details about the planned route, route actually being taken and an alternate plan to attack a police station in case of delay in reaching the Pathankot Air Force station. The person who made the call also reassured, motivated and encouraged the terrorists to accomplish the terror attack,” reads the charge sheet filed by the NIA in the case.

Conversations between the attackers and Kashif Jan were extracted by NIA from Ikagar’s phone which was used by the JeM attackers after they abducted him on the night of December 31, 2015. A cab driver, Ikagar was going from village Bhagwal to Janial when his vehicle was hijacked near Simbal. The vehicle met an accident at the Dhusi turn near the Ravi river bridge following which Singh was killed.

It is likely that the delay caused by the accident had prompted the attackers to switch to their “alternate plan”. What is more interesting is that the conversation sheds light on the fact that the planners of the terror attack had not chosen one but two spot as a potential target. The second one being the police station which the attackers and Kashif speak about, as revealed in the NIA chargesheet.

According to the chargesheet the NIA had sent two letter rogatories or judicial requests seeking the arrest and interrogation of the accused that included JeM’s chief Maulana Masood Azhar along with other accused including Azhar’s brother Mufti Abdul Rouf,Shahid Latif and Kashif Jan.

The NIA submitted that in their judicial requests, it had asked for voice DNA samples of the accused, their addresses, relevant documents related to their debit and credit cards IP address used by them as well as their hard drives. The probe agency said reply to the request is awaited even though the last request sent to Pakistan authorities was in May last year.

The chargesheet stated that the four Pakistani nationals identified as Nasir Hussain, Hafiz Abu Bakar, Umar Farooq and Abdul Qayum were residents of Vehari (Punjab), Gujranwala (Punjab), Sanghar (Sindh) and Sukkur (Sindh) of Pakistan respectively were responsible for the attack that claimed lives of seven security personnel during an 80-hour long stand-off inside the Indian Air Force station located in Punjab’s Pathankot area.

According to the probe the attackers were using AK-47 assault rifles with under barrel grenade launcher and muzzle attachment rifle grenade launchers which were made in the erstwhile USSR. Furthermore the pistols used in the attack were of Chinese make and the AK-47 ammunition recovered was from China, Russia and Yugoslavia.The clothes and medicines recovered were from Pakistan.

NIA has also listed conversations taken place on Facebook account of Kashif Jan which was registered in 2012 and was active till Jan 5,2016, a day after the attack concluded. The conversations, now part of the chargesheet, show one Hamja Shakir telling Jan that in India News names of JeM and LeT appeared with regards to the attack. Shakir asks Jan names and number of “brethren” were there for the “marriage” code for fidayeen attack. Other conversations include congratulatory messages and inquires about the attack.