The Cabinet Committee on Security, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, met on Friday in the wake of the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district that killed at least 40 Central Reserve Police Force jawans, ANI reported. The committee includes the ministers of home affairs, external affairs, finance, and defence.
Speaking to reporters outside the Prime Minister’s residence after the meeting, Union minister Arun Jaitley announced that India will withdraw the “Most Favoured Nation” status accorded to Pakistan with immediate effect. Jaitley, who resumed charge of the Ministry of Finance, also attended the meeting where top security officials made a presentation about the attack and the overall security situation in Jammu and Kashmir, PTI reported.
Speaking at the flag-off ceremony of the Vande Bharat Express in Delhi, Modi said the security forces will be given a free hand in the wake of the attack. He added that the central government will give a strong reply to the perpetrators.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh will visit Srinagar later in the day to take stock of the situation. He will accompanied by Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, CRPF Director General RR Bhatnagar, Intelligence Bureau Additional Director Arvind Kumar and other senior officials, ANI reported.
Explosive specialists of the Black Cat commando force of the National Security Guard and a team of the National Investigation Agency left for Jammu and Kashmir on Friday to join the probe. A forensic team of the central agency will also reach Pulwama on Friday to assist the Jammu and Kashmir Police, who have registered a case in connection with the blast.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has cancelled all political programmes scheduled on Friday, including those by Modi and party chief Amit Shah. The Congress also called off a meeting of party chief Rahul Gandhi with senior diplomats of G20 nations and neighbouring countries on Friday, reported the Hindustan Times.
Modi on Thursday had vowed strict action against the perpetrators of the attack, which has been claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed militant outfit. “The sacrifices of our brave security personnel shall not go in vain,” he had tweeted.
The Ministry of External Affairs had also promised action. “Government of India is firmly and resolutely committed to take all necessary measures to safeguard national security,” it said in a statement on Thursday. “We are equally resolved to fight against the menace of terrorism.”
Mobile internet services were suspended in Jammu on Friday. Authorities on Thursday had suspended internet and mobile data services in south Kashmir and reduced the internet speed in Srinagar.
Pulwama-based militant Adil Ahmad, who joined the Jaish-e-Mohammed last year, drove an explosive-laden vehicle into a bus that was part of the CRPF convoy headed to Srinagar. More than 2,500 CRPF personnel were travelling in the convoy of 78 vehicles when they were ambushed at Latoomode in Awantipora on the Srinagar-Jammu highway.
‘We are at fault too,’ says J&K governor
Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik on Thursday said the attack was a result of an intelligence failure as security forces had been unable to detect the movement of the explosive-laden vehicle, The Indian Express reported.
“We cannot accept that [intelligence failure]. We could not detect or check the vehicle full of explosives moving on the highway,” Malik told the newspaper. “We must accept that we are at fault also.”
Ahmad had been on the list of suspects, but authorities had been unable to trace him, said Malik. The governor said that the militant could have escaped to the forests or the hills. “This was just a chance thing and he was the rare one who got away,” he said. “The fact that we did not know that there was a fidayeen [suicide bomber] among them is also part of the intelligence failure.”
Fidayeen is an Arabic term that means “those who sacrifice themselves”.
Malik said security forces had no intelligence inputs or warning about local militants being trained to become a suicide bomber. He said the government would come up with a strategy in security reviews and claimed the militants would be “finished off” within three months.
Malik attributed the Pulwama attack to the “frustration” of handlers across the border in Pakistan. “There was pressure from Pakistan for the militants to do something big,” he said. “This attack is the result of that desperation they were facing.”
A senior police officer in Kashmir said that there was a police input about possible IED attacks but that it was not specific.