Two militants from Pakistan who carried out back-to-back terror strikes in Upper Dangri village in Rajouri district on January 1 and 2 this year, killing seven people and injuring 14, are members of Lashkar-e-Toiba.
A top police officer revealed to The Indian Express that the terrorist duo used the mobile phones of some locals to communicate with their handlers over the Line of Control while on the run (LoC).
“Some of them [handlers] have been identified who are staying over the LoC and in the hinterland of Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.
Police and security services have been searching for the killers, who are believed to be still in Rajouri district, for the past two months. A Rs 15 lakh cash reward has already been declared for giving information leading to their arrest or assassination.
The militants’ last known location was Narla hamlet in Taryath tehsil of Kalakote sub-division, around 35-40 kilometres by road from Dangri.
On January 14-15, the extremists allegedly visited two households and requested food.
According to sources, the militants initially approached a family in Ward 4 of Narla Bambal panchayat around 7-8 p.m. on January 14 and requested food. After lunch, they packed food for two days and left, instructing the family not to inform the police or security personnel.
According to sources, the militants showed up at a house in Ward 5 the next evening and had dinner there. They packed food for three days and even used a family member’s phone to chat to their handler in Pakistan before leaving, according to sources. They began by installing the Telegram software on the device, they explained.
Narla Bambal panchayat in Rajouri district borders Reasi district, where residents caught two highly armed terrorists, including LeT commander Talib Hussain, last year.
A senior police officer stated that the terrorists had been using offline apps like Telegram to communicate with their masters in both J&K and Pakistan.
He stated that they had regularly changed their base in order to avoid confrontation with police and security services which are constantly on the lookout for them.
According to the officer, they have received information on their presence in remote areas of the Kalakote-Dharamsal belt.
They have not used their own communication devices in order to avoid being tracked by security agents, he added.
According to authorities, their search and cordon operations are ongoing because both militants are still located in hilly areas and could carry out another act of terror at any time.
Other villagers are assisting them by supplying information about the movements and acts of police and paramilitary troops, according to the report, which adds that 60-70 people have been picked up for questioning thus far.
However, sources said that while the terrorists implicated in the Upper Dangri slaughter are Pakistanis, they appear to be supervised by local militants camping across the LoC and their links in the countryside.
According to sources, over a dozen youths from Rajouri and Poonch districts are operating from Pakistani soil, and the possibility of some of them being involved in the Dangri massacre cannot be ruled out because it is unclear how they reached the village, which is far from the LoC, chose the target, and managed to flee after carrying out the killings.