Lashkar phone intercepts triggered PM security overhaul in Srinagar
While security agencies continue to look into the matter, intelligence on a possible attack being planned on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his visit to Srinagar did ring alarm bells here because of the specific nature of the information. In fact, a top Intelligence Bureau official had to be rushed from Delhi a day before the visit to revamp security arrangements.
At one point, a suggestion was also made to the PMO to reconsider the visit but the PM was said to have made it clear that he would continue with his commitment. There was a breather on the night of his departure when a communication intercept was received that the terrorists were calling off their plan because it had been leaked.
That too was treated with caution as the past 24 hours had sent out sufficient jitters. It is learnt that the information was generated on June 5 by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) which is known to maintain a low profile but does have its own resources other than the task of coordinating intelligence received from the three services.
The information was essentially culled out of seven telephonic conversations on June 5 itself between Sopore-based Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Abdullah Uni and Ali Hurreira, possible code name of the LeT coordinator in ***. The conversations happened between 4 pm and 6 pm in which a general sketch of the plot was discussed.
In fact, the last snatch of the intercept even had Hurreira telling Uni that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi had been told of the entire plan, indicating that senior LeT members were still in touch with Lakhvi who is currently in prison for his role in the 26/11 Mumbai attack.
According to reliable sources, the two did use coded language and it took time to decipher the contents. The plan, it seems, had two elements to it one was to somehow target the PMs convoy using a Tata Sumo and then follow it up with a suicide attack. The two apparently spoke about this vehicle being dispatched from Sopore to reach Srinagar on time.
As for the fidayeen attack, it is believed that there was frequent mention of a house that shared its boundary wall with that of the Sher-e-Kashmir University, where the PM was slated to visit. There was an assurance from Uni that the resident of the house was ready to cooperate. It was assessed that the suicide attacker would possibly be based in this house.
Once this information was deciphered, sources said, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon was immediately briefed and it was decided to rush IB Special Director Nehchal Sandhu, who is the number two in the agency, to Srinagar to take a fresh look at security arrangements.
A multi-tier security plan was put in place with vehicles scrupulously checked and jammers installed. There was talk to even shift the venue but that was overruled. Such was the security frenzy that the DIA is said to have picked up another conversation on June 6 night in which Uni apparently informed his LeT coordinator in *** that the plan had leaked and police were on high alert. He is then believed to have expressed his inability to carry out the attack under such circumstances.
However, sources said, it was decided at high levels not to disseminate this input until the visit got over as caution still had to be maintained.