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Shock Value: The Newest Targets on Hit List of Militants in Kashmir – Electrical Towers

Counterinsurgency officials in the Valley are concerned by what appears to be a fresh strategy from militant groups which could lead to blackout and loss of lives.

Aakash Hassan | News18.com@Aakashhassan

Updated:October 25, 2019, 11:29 PM IST
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Shock Value: The Newest Targets on Hit List of Militants in Kashmir – Electrical Towers
Representative image. (Reuters)

Srinagar: In what appears to be a fresh strategy to disrupt life in Kashmir and destroy critical infrastructure, militants have started targeting electricity transmission towers in the Valley. On Thursday evening, during a search operation following a jihadist attack on non-local truckers in Chitragam area of south Kashmir’s Shopian district, security personnel were surprised to find two sections of a 400MW strategic power transmission line cut at the base.

The joint forces of Army, Jammu and Kashmir Police and Central Reserve Police Force were combing through the village following the strike in which two truckers were killed and one injured. They found that a few metres off the road where the attack had taken place, a transmission tower had been damaged.

Gas cutters had been used to sever the limbs of the tower, a police official who was part of the search operation told News18.

“We had to put people on the job who protected the tower for the night. Otherwise, it could have collapsed,” the official said.

Had the tower toppled over, it could have been disastrous, officials in J&K Police and civil administration told News18.

“There would have been major fault in the electricity infrastructure of Kashmir, which could have led to loss of power, lives and blackout spreading to many parts of the Valley,” an official in the state power department said.

The 400MW Kishanpur-Wagoora transmission line distributes electricity to many parts of the Valley and is maintained by the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited.

Counterinsurgency officials in Kashmir are concerned by what appears to be a new strategy from jihadi groups in the Valley.

“The terrorists managed to cut two limbs of this massive tower with gas cutters, but it appears they later ran out of gas and couldn’t cut the other two limbs,” an official who was at the spot where the incident occurred told News18.

Officials say fortunately the tower number 348, which was targeted, is a suspension tower.

“The suspension tower stands between two towers, and is meant to be for the support of other structures,” said one of them.

The counterinsurgency grid is looking for a fresh approach to take on these tactics.

“This is going to be a major challenge. There are hundreds of such towers in Kashmir which can become easy targets,” a police official said. “We haven’t seen such kind of targeting previously in the history of Kashmir militancy. Earlier, mobile phone towers were targeted, though not in this way. But electricity transmission towers have never been damaged.”

The transmission tower is just metres away from the spot where the truckers were killed and their apple-laden vehicles set ablaze after suspected terrorists fired on them indiscriminately on Thursday evening. This was the fourth such incident in which non-Kashmiris were purportedly attacked in the past 15 days in the southern region of the Valley.

The trucks, according to J&K Police officials, were passing through Chitragam village when they were attacked by the gunmen, leaving the people on board the two vehicles injured. Two among them, police officials told News18, succumbed to their injuries at the spot while another one was shifted to SMHS Hospital in Srinagar in critical condition.

Those killed were identified as Ilyas Khan, driver of the truck, and its conductor Zahid Khan. Both were in their mid-thirties and hailed from Alwar, Rajasthan. The third, another driver, who sustained bullet injuries and was identified as Jeewan Kumar from Hoshiarpur in Punjab, is being treated at the hospital in Srinagar.

There has been a rash of attacks on non-locals in the Valley after the central government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and divided the state into two union territories on August 5.

In the first such incident, militants killed a truck driver in Shirmal area of Shopian on October 14. A few hours later, a labourer working at a brick kiln was killed in Pulwama district. Shortly after, two apple traders were targeted in which one died on the spot and another was critically wounded.

These attacks, according to reports, is a reaction of militants against New Delhi’s decision to abrogate the special status of the strife-torn state.

The apple industry, which is considered the backbone of Kashmir’s economy and ensures livelihood for half of the 8 million population, is already suffering huge losses due to the restive situation in the Valley since August 5.

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