Two people were killed and three critically injured in the rebel attacks that were carried out on people engaged in mobile phone operations in north Kashmir.
Imtiyaz Ahmad Nazroo, 25, a land owner in Pattan town was left critically injured in a guerrilla attack on Wednesday, prompting over two dozen mobile phone towers to stop beaming signals on Thursday.
Land owners appealed to companies through paid advertisements in local newspapers to immediately dismantle these towers.
Mobile phone towers also stopped beaming signals in Sopore town on Thursday.
These attacks follow the seizure of hi-tech communication equipment by police in Sopore town. The equipment was fitted on a mobile phone tower to improve the guerrilla communication network.
“We have seized the equipment. Those responsible for carrying out the attacks will not be spared,” a senior police officer told IANS in Srinagar.
A lesser known guerrilla group identifying itself as Lashkar-e-Islam has owned up responsibility for the attacks.
The group, through posters, earlier warned of dire consequences to those engaged in mobile phone businesses if they did not wind up their business.
Interestingly, both hardline senior separatist leaders, Syed Ali Geelani in Srinagar and Syed Sallauddin, the Muzaffarabad based chief of guerrilla conglomerate ‘Jehad Council’, have condemned and distanced themselves from these attacks.
Intelligence agencies, however, say the attacks were carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
“We have credible information that all the attacks on land owners of cell phone towers and SIM card sellers have been carried out by LeT outfit,” said a top intelligence officer here.
Lt. General Subrata Saha, who heads the army’s Srinagar based 15th Corps, told reporters: “We are analyzing it as a new threat and I am sure we will expose this unheard of group. Singling out of the telecom sector in Sopore brings a new focus to the terror in the valley.”
The common man in north Kashmir is worried about what will happen to their businesses and other communication dependent professions if all the cell phone towers were to shut operations.
“It is impossible to think of carrying on business in the absence of communication these days and the best mode of communication is the mobile phone,” a sopore town businessman said.
“How do we carry on businesses without connectivity these days?” asked the seasoned businessman, who for fear of reprisal asked not to be named.
The problem for the security agencies is that its is not prac tical for them to post armed guards at hundreds of mobile phone towers in north Kashmir Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora districts.
“It is not possible at all to secure all the mobile phone towers by posting armed guards there,” said a senior police officer here.
“The mobile phone towers are properties of the service providers and the state government does have a direct or indirect responsibility to guard these properties,” he added.
The mobile phone companies providing services like internet in the valley are avoiding any comment on the disturbing development.
“Sorry, I cannot speak on the issue,” said a senior executive of one of the cell phone companies here.
State Education Minister Naeem Akhtar, who is authorized to speak to the media on behalf of the state government, told IANS: “This is a mischief and those involved in these attacks are no friends of Kashmiris.”
Hitting cell phone operations in north Kashmir may have a snowballing effect in other places of the valley and that is a worry for the security forces and the intelligence agencies.