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Gurdaspur Attack: Is India well equipped to deal with terror?

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Gurdaspur-Attack

By Aishwarya Nag Choudhury

Terrorists attacked Punjab’s Dinanagar Police Station in Gurudaspur district in the early hours of July 27, killing six and injuring as many as eighteen people. Among the deceased were SP detective Baljeet Singh, two home guards, a policeman, and three civilians. The attack that started at 5.30 am continued for twelve hours, until the police and the security neutralized the threat by killing all the three terrorists.

The terrorists were holed up in a sanitation site in a vacant building adjacent to Dinanagar police station. The MHA report reveals that the militants were heavily armed with 2 GPS, 3 AK-47, 10 magazines, and 2 China made grenades. The MHA further suspects that the assailants belonged to the extremist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammed. The terrorists struck a civilian bus and showered it with bullets. They attempted to attack the health center and then targeted the residential complex of the Police station and hurled grenades before open firing on the police station. The local police said that the terrorists attacked a roadside shop, killing a vendor before fleeing in a Maruti 800 which had a Punjab registration.

Additionally in a nearby train track, a set of five bombs were located, suggesting a series of pre-planned attacks to mark the anniversary of a near-war between India and Pakistan in 1999. Fortunately, even though a train passed at 5.15 am, the bombs did not explode due to wiring problems, said Deputy SP of Police (Pathankot) Prabhjot Singh Virk. However, the IEDs were not diffused until the Bomb Disposal Unit arrived from Jalandhar. Army commandos and a Quick Response Team (QRT) were also summoned.

Is India properly equipped to deter terrorist attacks? Are we safe?

Though the three terrorists were killed in the combat, and one left injured, the question remains: Is India equipped to deter terror attacks? After all, this unforeseen event claimed six lives and left many injured.

The Prime Minister met Union Minister Manohar Parrikar, Arun Jaitley, and Venkaiah Naidu to discuss the security situation of the country. Thereafter, security along the border with Pakistan has been tightened. Jitendra Singh, a junior minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office, said to the media that he did not rule out Pakistan’s involvement.

“There have been earlier reports of Pakistan infiltration and cross-border mischief in this area,” said Singh, whose constituency is in the Jammu region bordering Gurdaspur. The attack in Punjab was eerily similar to attacks in the border belt of Jammu, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said on twitter. “Will be very interested to see what emerges about the identity of the terrorists involved in the Gurdaspur attack this morning,” he tweeted. Rajnath Singh spoke to the head of the Security Force and gave instructions to increase the vigil of India.

Terrorism is a global threat, the combat of which is imperative for the security of all nations. However, in the case of a country like India, which has been the victim to many unfortunate attacks in the past, the level of security and vigilance has to be increased.

Of the total allocation for defense for 2015, the army will get Rs 1,04,158.95 crores, the navy Rs 15,525.64 crores, the air force Rs 23,000.09 crores, the ordnance factories Rs 2,884.23 crores, and the Defense Research and Development Organizations Rs 6,570.09 crores. The remaining amount of Rs 94,588 crores has been allotted on the capital account for the acquisition of modern weapon systems, including initial payments for 126 multi-mission, medium-range combat aircraft, 197 light helicopters, and 145 Ultra-light Howitzers, among others. Even after ample funds, the security of the country can be questioned. Neither the Bomb Disposal Unit, nor the Commandos of the QRT could reach on time. Moreover, the local police were not adequately armed to combat the terrorists and thus the gunfight continued for over ten hours.

The attack on Punjab just after the celebration of Kargil Diwas raises doubts about the credibility of security in the country, just as it did during the Mumbai attacks. With the death of civilians, one may ask – does our territory guarantee our safety? Or is India going to be the relentless victim of global terror attacks in the years to come?

The attack on Punjab also altered foreign relations which India holds with other nations. The attack took place in the aftermath of the Modi-Sharif talks at Ufa, Russia. The two leaders spoke about reviving their stalled dialogue that would help accelerate the trial in the Mumbai 26/11 attack case. However, Pakistan is being suspected to be involved in the Punjab attacks, and this has strained the relations between the two countries.

Next Story

U.S. To Begin Search Through The Remnants Of The Islamic State’s Final Enclave

SDF officials have raised the possibility that the remaining IS fighters may also be holding prisoners and hostages, but there has been no word as to their fate in recent days.

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Fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) patrol near the village of Baghuz in the Syrian countryside, March 20, 2019. VOA

U.S.-backed forces are starting to search through the remnants of the Islamic State’s final enclave in northeastern Syria, looking for fighters, mines and booby-trapped explosives.

The effort Wednesday to sift through the broken buildings and shredded tents that litter the landscape in the town of Baghuz comes a day after Syrian Democratic Forces took the area from IS fighters in what officials described as a significant blow to the terror group.

SDF officials said as many as 1,500 more people surrendered following Tuesday’s incursion into IS’s final stronghold, including hundreds of injured IS fighters.

Suspected Islamic State (IS) group fighters and civilians are screened by members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the village of Baghuz, Syria, March 20, 2019.
Suspected Islamic State (IS) group fighters and civilians are screened by members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the village of Baghuz, Syria, March 20, 2019. VOA

But concerns run high that fighters lurk in trenches dug all around the former IS enclave, as well as in a complex network of caves and tunnels, which some officials said could run for more than two kilometers.

An unknown number of IS fighters have also retreated to a sliver of land along the Euphrates River, and there are no estimates for how many fighters could be hiding in other parts of Baghuz.

“A group of Daesh in Baghuz still fight back and hold their families as human shields,” Zana Amedi, a media official with the YPG militia, which has been supporting the SDF offensive, told VOA Wednesday, using the terror group’s Arabic acronym.

Despite the official caution, small celebrations broke out Wednesday around Baghuz, with some groups of SDF fighters playing music and dancing.

“We have won. We have eliminated the enemy, the terrorists,” Majid Hejjo, an SDF fighter, told the French news agency.

“The comrades are tired, and the battle is over,” said another SDF fighter.

No ‘complete victory’ yet

In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump was equally effusive, telling reporters on the South Lawn of the White House that the very last speck of IS-held territory would be liberated within hours.

“There is no red,” Trump said just hours after an intelligence briefing, showing off a map that compared IS-held territory now and the day he was elected. “In fact, there’s actually a tiny spot, which will be gone by tonight.”

Still, SDF officials and U.S. defense officials have been wary of saying the fight against the terror group’s self-declared caliphate is over.

It has been three months since Trump first announced the defeat of IS in a tweet,and more than a month since he told a meeting of ministers from coalition countries that the end of the caliphate “should be formally announced, probably sometime next week.”

More recently, multiple SDF officials have also forecast the fall of IS within days or even hours, only to see efforts slowed by fierce fighting and the presence of tens of thousands of civilians, mostly the wives, children and family members of IS fighters.

They now say more than 5,000 people have fled Baghuz since SDF resumed its final assault on IS just over a week ago, despite earlier saying only about 1,000 civilians and 300 fighters were holed up in Baghuz shortly after the operation to liberate the town got under way last month.

Smoke rises from the Islamic State (IS) group's last remaining position in the village of Baghuz during battles with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in the countryside of the eastern Syrian province of Deir el-Zour, March 20, 2019.
Smoke rises from the Islamic State (IS) group’s last remaining position in the village of Baghuz during battles with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in the countryside of the eastern Syrian province of Deir el-Zour, March 20, 2019. VOA

In all, SDF says more than 5,000 IS fighters have surrendered or been captured over the past month, while another 1,300 have been killed in the fighting.

The U.S.-led coalition also said Wednesday there has been no letup in efforts to ensure the terror group is defeated.

“The ground offensive, coalition airstrikes and artillery continue as needed,” coalition spokesman Col. Sean Ryan told VOA. “The SDF feel they are in control of the area, but as long as Daesh puts up any type of fight and hides in tunnels, they cannot declare complete victory.”

Fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gather near the village of Baghuz, Syria, March 20, 2019.
Fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gather near the village of Baghuz, Syria, March 20, 2019. VOA

‘Tens of thousands’ of fighters

SDF officials have raised the possibility that the remaining IS fighters may also be holding prisoners and hostages, but there has been no word as to their fate in recent days.

Thousands of SDF troops have massed around Baghuz for weeks, laying siege to the town in an effort to liberate the final IS enclave in Syria. Officials said Kurdish special forces from Iraq also had been brought in to help with the operations.

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Even once an official announcement is made, U.S. defense officials caution IS still has “tens of thousands” of fighters working either as part of sleeper cells or as part of an active, clandestine insurgency.

Additionally, senior officials believe most of the group’s senior leadership, including its self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remain at large. (VOA)