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Punjab attack: No evidence that terrorists used Ravi river route, says BSF

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By Jaideep Sarin and Parminder Bariana

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Gurdaspur (Punjab):  Despite Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement in parliament that the three terrorists who launched the attack in Dinanagar town of Punjab’s Gurdaspur district on July 27 had entered India by crossing the Ravi river along the India-Pakistan border, doubts are now being raised about the authenticity of the GPS (global positioning system) coordinates recovered from the killed militants.

“We have not found any evidence of the terrorists using the route (as indicated by the GPS coordinates),” BSF Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of police N.K. Mishra told IANS.

Sources in the Border Security Force (BSF), which guards the India-Pakistan border 24×7, pointed out that no traces of the movement of terrorists through the Ravi river route and beyond have been found which could establish that they entered from the Makoda area of Bamiyal sector of Gurdaspur district.

The area borders Pakistan on the west and Jammu and Kashmir on the north.

“It is impossible that no traces were left by the terrorists while crossing the well-guarded river or footmarks on the river bank or even crawling tracks in the wild growth (Sarkanda) in the area.” a BSF source, involved in investigating and tracking the route taken by the terrorists, told IANS in this frontier sector.

“The GPS coordinates found on the equipment recovered from the terrorists could be misleading,” he added.

BSF officers feel that the terrorists could have entered through some place in adjoining Jammu and Kashmir and later arrived in Punjab.

BSF officials also point out that even if the GPS coordinates were to be believed, it was impossible for the terrorists to traverse the terrain so quickly and reach Dinanagar for carrying out the attack.

As per the GPS coordinates recovered, the terrorists entered through the Ravi river in Makoda area and moved along Narowal, Bala Pindi, Chak Alla Baksh (all in Pakistan), railway track near Talwandi village, Chottu Nath Mandir, Dinanagar to Taragarh road, near village Jakhar Pindi to SSM College in Dinanagar.

It was believed that the terrorists followed this route on the intervening night of July 26-27, planted bombs on the railway track near Parmanand railway station and then moved to Dinanagar town for the attack.

The BSF sent a team of its troopers on the route and found that the team took over six hours to reach the railway track alone. This did not include the time taken to cross the river, which is not easy to cross either, and planting of bombs on the railway track.

The attack in Dinanagar started around 5.25 am. The terrorists engaged security forces in an over 11-hour long gun-battle before being neutralized by the Punjab Police.

“The GPS coordinates could have been loaded on the sets to mislead security agencies. The terrain is not easy to move freely. Even otherwise, how could such heavily armed terrorists not be seen by anyone all along even though it was night time,” one officer said.

The Ravi river has Cobra electric wires and the river is guarded round-the-clock with motorboats, day and night devices and floodlights. The river, in the current monsoon season, has a heavy flow of water.

The electrified, barbed wire fencing along the border has also not been breached in the sector, BSF sources said.

(IANS)

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Taliban And The U.S. Set To Meet in UAE

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan 17 years ago and the war with the Taliban has since killed nearly 150,000 people, including Afghan civilians

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USA, afghanistan, taliban
U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

A Pakistan-arranged meeting between U.S. and Taliban officials will be held Monday in the United Arab Emirates to push a political settlement to the war in Afghanistan.

The special representative for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, will lead the U.S. team at the talks in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the gulf state, a senior Pakistani official privy to the development confirmed to VOA on Sunday.

The official, requesting anonymity, said Islamabad has facilitated the dialogue after President Donald Trump wrote to Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier this month seeking his cooperation in bringing the Taliban to the table for peace negotiations.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in a brief statement sent to VOA, has confirmed participation of its political negotiators in Monday’s meeting with American officials, but said that representatives of the host country, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia will also be in attendance.

Imran Khan, Taliban
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Nov. 21, 2018. VOA

Initially, it was Khan who disclosed on Friday that Pakistan-aided talks between U.S. and Taliban officials would take place on December 17, though he would not say where.

The Pakistani prime minister, while speaking in the northwestern city of Peshawar, explained his country has agreed to assist in Afghan peace efforts because Washington has changed its position by requesting help, instead of saying Islamabad is not doing enough, as U.S. leaders have previously insisted.

A spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday hailed Khan’s remarks and support for a political reconciliation in the war-ravaged neighboring country.

“The United States welcomes any actions by the Pakistani government to promote greater cooperation, including fostering negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and other Afghans,” the spokesperson told VOA.

“Special Representative Khalilzad has met, and will continue to meet, with all interested parties, including the Taliban, to support a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan,” noted the U.S. embassy official.

taliban, afghanistan
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, right, head of the Taliban’s political council in Qatar, takes part in the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, Nov. 9, 2018. VOA

 

In his speech on Friday, Khan said that if peace were achieved in Afghanistan, his country will be the immediate beneficiary in terms of security, economic stability and regional connectivity.

Khalilzad, is visiting regional countries to gather support for Afghan peace talks. He is 14 days into an 18-day visit to the region and has already visited Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belgium.

Since taking office in September, the Afghan-born U.S. special envoy has held two meetings with the Taliban in Qatar, where the insurgent group operates its so-called “political office.”

But those talks have been for the sake of talks, say insurgent and Pakistani officials.

Demands, accusations

Pakistani officials privy to Khalilzad’s interaction with the Taliban have told VOA that until now no progress has been achieved because the insurgents adamantly demand “a date or timeframe” for all U.S. and NATO troops to withdraw from Afghanistan before the Taliban decides to participate in an intra-Afghan peace process.

Afghanistan, Taliban
Security forces inspect the site of a deadly blast in the center of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 12, 2018. VOA

 

Washington has long maintained Taliban leaders are sheltering in Pakistan with covert support from the country’s intelligence agency. Washington has been urging Islamabad to use its influence to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table.

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan and continue to pose serious battlefield challenges for U.S.-backed Afghan security forces.

Also Read: U.S. Welcomes Pakistan’s Actions Towards Peace in Afghanistan

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan 17 years ago and the war with the Taliban has since killed nearly 150,000 people, including Afghan civilians, security forces, insurgents and more than 2,400 American soldiers, according to an American University study released recently.

The longest war effort in U.S. history has also cost Washington nearly one trillion dollars. The Taliban has expanded its insurgent activities and currently controls or hotly contests about half of Afghanistan. The conflict is said to have killed more Afghan civilians and security forces in 2018 than in any other year. (VOA)