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Soldiers from border areas under scanner

Soldiers from border areas under scanner

Author: Mohit Kandhari
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: July 7, 2006

Following detention of three jawans of Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) for their suspected links with field commanders of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba in Jammu and Kashmir, security forces have been asked to launch intensive screening of jawans hailing from border districts of Poonch and Rajouri to weed out those involved in militant activities in the region.

Meanwhile, after nabbing two jawans of JAKLI, Lance Naik Mohd Shakeel and Sepoy Abdul Haq for their suspected links with LeT commanders in Mendhar, security forces on Wednesday detained another jawan of 4 JAKLI, Havaldar Mohd Sharief from near Pahalgam in Anantnag district for his suspected links with LeT commanders in Kashmir.

Mohd Sharief was presently posted in 3 RR in Anantnag. Both Mohd Shakeel and Abdul Haq had earlier served 8 RR in Kashmir and were presently posted under newly created IX Corps headquartered in Yole camp in Himachal Pradesh.

The place of origin of all three jawans, Gursai falling under Mendhar tehsil in Poonch district, has already come under scanner forcing Army authorities to launch random screening of jawans and their families living in remote areas to ascertain whether they have been living under the influence of militants in the area or not.

Reports said that two army jawans detained recently by Central intelligence agencies, Lance Naik Mohd Shakeel and Sepoy Abdul Haq during their sustained interrogation have revealed that they were forced by LeT commander Abu Osama to act as couriers to deliver arms and ammunition, SIM cards, money, batteries and letters to their cadre, failing which their families will be subjected to harassment in their village in Gursai. The army jawans are believed to have executed the tasks assigned to them while returning on duty as they do not undergo any screening while in uniform.

Counter-insurgency experts and senior police officials in Jammu view this trend as alarming and had listed militancy infested areas, including Gursai as Black villages to launch sustained screening.

Inspector General Jammu range SP Vaid said there is need to carry out screening of jawans and their families as large number of jawans from border districts of Rajouri and Poonch are serving in Indian army and other security agencies. He said, for the last seventeen years, Pakistani agencies, including ISI, were making efforts to motivate residents in the area to extend them a helping hand to launch more lethal operations against Indian agencies but failed. He said the present revelations are an eye-opener for all the security forces.

PNS adds from New Delhi: Sources said the three soldiers were acting as facilitators for the militants as they had threatened the families of the soldiers living in remote village with dire consequences. The militants were provided with food, boots, batteries and other logistical support including place to stay by these soldiers, it was learnt. Officials said these soldiers were not privy to any information of strategic or tactical value, which could be passed on to the militants.

They said it was too early to establish identity of the terrorist "Tanzeem"(organisation) which was in touch with these soldiers as interrogation was still on. A court of inquiry as per army rules would follow and based upon its recommendations, further course of disciplinary action including court martial would commence, sources said.

They refuted reports of infiltration of the army ranks by the terrorist organisations and said this case suggested that the soldiers most probably chose to help the militants as they feared that their families living in remote areas were vulnerable.

When asked about the measures taken by the Army to ensure the safety of the families of soldiers living in insurgency prone areas, they said the security forces carry out patrolling in the general vicinity of their homes. Moreover, the soldiers are briefed and debriefed by their commanding officers when they proceed on leave and when they rejoin duty.

It may be mentioned here that the possibility of terrorist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) infiltrating the armed forces was sounded by none other than National Security Council and National Security Advisor M K.Narayanan. He cautioned the IAF that two LeT cadre could have joined the IAF. The IAF carried out a detailed scanning and found no LeT cadre amongst its ranks. However, the IAF had further tightened its screening procedures and was conducting regular checks.

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