Suicide bomber: Myth and the reality

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by Masood Hussain

SRINAGAR: In the run-up to the Republic Day function when the Kashmir Police Chief issued a warning about a “suicide bomber” being on the prowl, the entire security grid was on tenterhooks. Finally, she was arrested near Awantipore on the eve of January 26, but it did not impact the level of alertness.

Governor N N Vohra unfurling the tricolour in M A Stadium Jammu on Republic Day. Image: J&K Government

“There is a strong input”, a communication from the office of Kashmir Police Chief Munir Khan to the district police said on Wednesday, that “non-Kashmiri woman might cause a suicide bomb explosion” near or inside the R-Day parade in Kashmir. “All are directed to please ensure that frisking of ladies at the (venues) is done meticulously and with utmost caution so as to thwart the designs of anti-national elements,” the alert read.

With the young lady now in the net, the police are still trying to verify what Sadiya Anwar Shaikh is all about. So far, there has not been a single thing that has come out that would suggest that she was going to blow herself up or resort to any kind of violence. Nothing incriminating has been recovered from her so far.

“We have no case against her right now barring the fact that she is unable to offer a plausible explanation for certain questions,” one senior police officer said. “She is detained, not arrested.”

Munir A Khan, ADGP, JKP

The officer said that the police have contacted her family and they are also in touch with the Maharashtra police. “She is from a broken family and has been writing harsh radical posts on social websites, especially Facebook and she has a history of visiting certain virtual chat-rooms that are somehow talking more about the Middle East and ISIS.”

“The information is still quite scanty,” another police officer said. “What we have been able to establish is that she is a resident of Pune and was earlier summoned to by the Maharashtra Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) for de-radicalization in 2015 and since then she is on the radar.” Her summoning for counselling by the Pune ATS was on basis of her radical posting on the social media.

“I think, terming her a suicide bomber is making too much out of her,” the official said. “But let the police investigate and get the complete story.”

Her “rabid posting” on the Facebook has been there for some time and that was the main reason why various security agencies took interest in her. She turned major only in November 2017. Initial investigations suggest that she has been in touch with some FB friends in Kashmir and that was the main factor how she came to Kashmir.

“There is nothing incriminating against her excepting that she talks a radical language,” the officer said. “We are quite sensitive to the issue and we are waiting for her parents to reach Srinagar.”

Earlier, Khan admitted to the reporters of Sadiya’s arrest. “Fortunately, yesterday after working on all the leads we were able to apprehend the suspect late last night,” Khan, now an Additional Director General Police, said. “We will be taking to her, talking to our sister agencies; we will be covering every other lead to know what the facts are. Only after proper investigation, we will be able to come to any conclusion.”

Khan, however, said a case is registered and investigations are in progress. “It is yet to be verified, authenticated, ascertained, whether she actually is a suicide bomber or not,” Khan added.

The Bride With A Bomb?

Another police officer said the girl has been shifted to the Women’s Police Station in Rambagh. “She is in our custody but the case is being handled by different people,” the officer said. “We do not know much excepting that she was on security set up’s radar for some time and has earlier been questioned in Jammu and sent back home. He said there is nothing concrete, so far.

Incidentally, when she was detained, she was on way to Srinagar.

The input about the women’s presence has apparently come to the state police from central security agencies. This alert, however, kept the entire security grid on tenterhooks. Admitted the angle, a police officer said when the alert came in the run-up to the security bandubast, it was a dangerous cocktail.

Female members of the Jammu and Kashmir police force march during Republic Day celebrations in Srinagar, on Friday, 26 January 2018 at Sher-I-kashmir Cricket Stadium, in Srinagar. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

By and large, the January 26, parades passed off peacefully. There was no incident of any violence across Kashmir. However, after the official functions were over, suspected militants hurled a grenade towards Police Station in Pulwama. There was no loss of life or property. Besides, police have recovered a landmine from Sangam near the Srinagar-Jammu highway and defused it.

Authorities retained the practices of communication blockade for half of the day and even preventing Friday congregations in the Jamia Masjid.

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