Long convoy, intel failure: Multiple lapses led to Pulwama terror attack, finds CRPF inquiry

Long convoy, intel failure: Multiple lapses led to Pulwama terror attack, finds CRPF inquiry

HIGHLIGHTS

  • CRPF has prepared a report of an internal inquiry into the Pulwama terror attack
  • An unusually long convoy of CRPF men on Feb 14 became an easy target
  • Multiple lapses have been found to be reason behind the high number of casualties in the attack

The February 14 terror on a CRPF convoy that killed 40 personnel was a massive intelligence failure, revealed internal findings of the CRPF. This is in sharp contrast to the stand taken by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) which categorically stated that the Pulwama terror attack was not an intelligence failure.

The CRPF inquiry report points out that though there was a general alert regarding an IED threat during the period, there was no specific threat from a car-borne suicide bomber. The report stated that no such "input" was shared by any of the intelligence agencies in Kashmir Valley where the forces were forewarned to take precautionary steps.

MHA has refused to acknowledge that the attack was an intelligence failure. Instead, MoS (Home) G Kishan Reddy had said in June, "J&K is affected by terrorism sponsored and supported from across the border for the last three decades. Owing to the policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism and sustained action against terrorists by the security forces, a large number of terrorists have been neutralized during the past few years. All agencies are working in a coordinated manner and intelligence inputs are shared among various agencies on real time basis. The investigation by NIA into the Pulwama terror attack so far has resulted in identifying the perpetrators."

The CRPF internal report has now pointed out several lapses by the CRPF, including the unusual length of the convoy. The inquiry has identified the convoy length among the reasons behind the failure.

On February 14, the CRPF convoy consisting of 78 vehicles and 2,547 transients left Jammu for Srinagar. Sources said, not only was it easier to identify the convoy from afar, but it also made information leak much easier. The internal report also pointed out allowing civilian vehicle movement during convoy movement had cost the CRPF dearly.

The inquiry also found out the reason behind the unusually long convoy. The report has stated that since February 4, no vehicles were plying on the Jammu-Srinagar highway on account of heavy snowfall and there were personnel on leave, posting and deployment.

At about 3.33 pm on the fateful day, as the convoy neared mile stone 272, the suicide bomber blasted off the vehicle-borne IED and targeted 'Bus Reg no HR 49F 0637 of 76 Battalion CRPF'.

The vehicle under target was 5th in sequence in the convoy. Sources said, Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) was followed after the attack.

Sources also said, "As per rules, there has to be a gap between every four vehicles, which was done even in this case, which is why the impact was on one vehicle only."

Officials said the inquiry also found a video taken from atop a stationary CRPF bunker vehicle, which showed that ASI Mohan Lal on ROP duty tried to physically stop the vehicle that was being driven by the suicide bomber, a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist identified as Adil Ahmad Dar.

The SUV moved in zigzags before driving into the convoy. The inquiry has recommended posthumous gallantry award for ASI Mohan Lal, a resident of Uttarkashi's Barkot village, who was blown to smithereens. In the last few seconds before his death, the ASI showed immense courage by trying to stop the raging vehicle.

Sources said that the 15-page report was submitted to DG, CRPF in May, with his observations noted and put up before the court of inquiry.

However, DG RR Bhatnagar said, "The report has not reached my table, so I cannot comment since I have not seen the report."

Sources said that the current situation in the Valley had further delayed the final report as the board of officers have been tasked with maintaining law and order in the Valley.

An officer who wished to remain anonymous said, "The board will sit down once situation in the Valley is normal."

The board will also take stock of the damages incurred by the CRPF. Besides the irreparable human loss, the board will also decide the losses in terms of vehicle damage and weapons destroyed. While there were 39 people onboard the ill-fated CRPF vehicle, there were only 4 weapons in it, mostly AK-47s. The servicemen in transit would have got their weapons only when they reached their respective units.

Top sources in CRPF said that the force had taken immediate action in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack. It had not waited for the COI. However, CRPF continues to have long convoys, a senior officer said, since other precautions have been taken.