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Militants 'forged' ID of Army man to buy SIM, set off cell-bomb

Militants 'forged' ID of Army man to buy SIM, set off cell-bomb

Author: Majid Jahangir
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: February 10, 2007
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/22946.html

Introduction: Probe finds SIM card obtained via fraud application, complete with stamp and signatures

A J&K police investigation into a militant attack, where a roadside bomb was triggered by a mobile phone in Baramulla last year - the first such attack in the Valley - has sent alarm bells ringing across the security establishment. It has been found that militants fraudulently procured the cellphone's Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card on a fake Army man's name, photograph in uniform, unit name, address and even faked a certificate with a stamp of his superior, a Lieutenant Colonel.

On December 27, aiming at an Army convoy, militants had triggered an improvised explosive device planted along the national highway in the outskirts of Baramulla. The bomb missed its target and injured three pedestrians. A police team found pieces of a mobile phone amid the debris. The discovery rattled security agencies: the bomb was detonated by dialing the mobile phone attached to the hidden IED, pressing a three-digit code that triggered it instantaneously.

Although the handset was damaged, its SIM was intact. A probe found that it was registered with Airtel in the name of Madan Rana, son of Anil Rana, resident of Calcutta, 408 Field Ambulance C/O 56 APO.

The card (phone number 9906817469) was bought from Airtel's retail outlet in Tappar, not far from the site of the explosion. In fact, the registration form for the SIM had a photograph of an Army man in uniform and was stamped by one Lt Col D Mundiran of 408 Field Ambulance.

"We checked and it is all fake. The unit is not posted in the valley and there is no personnel with such name in 408 Field Ambulance unit. They are Army Medical Corps doctors and there has been no Lt Colonel D Mundiran there,'' Defence spokesman Col. A K Mathur told The Indian Express. "It is mischief. Somebody with a little bit of knowledge about the Army has faked all this."

"We are investigating ten SIM cards. Every militant we capture has a mobile phone. There is every likelihood that the SIM card was procured by the militants from Airtel on a fake name of an Army man. It is a serious matter and we are investigating all possibilities,'' Senior Superintendent of Police, Baramulla, Viplav Kumar said.

Police said they are also looking at tightening safeguards given the exponential increase of cellphone connections in the Valley - there are an estimated 12 lakh post-paid subscribers alone.

A Bharti Airtel spokesperson insisted that the firm strictly follows regulations. "We are fully committed to the subscriber verification process. We have always complied with the rules and regulations that govern the industry and will continue to do so,'' the spokesperson said.

Airtel officials said they issue a SIM card - both pre-paid and post-paid - only after the subscriber complies with all requisite formalities: furnishing details of the subscriber, a recent photograph and proof of residence. Subsequently the field staff conduct physical verification besides vetting the documents. Sources said that if the subscriber is a Defence personnel, the connection is issued only after he furnishes the authority letter of the Commanding officer of his unit.

Before the Baramulla blast, the police had successfully detected a cell-phone-triggered car bomb in Srinagar. This had led to blanket freezing of mobile signals across Srinagar on the eve of Independence Day.

majid.jahangir@expressindia.com


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