More than 10 days after the deadly terror attack in Pulwama, the Jammu and Kashmir police are struggling to collect evidence on the ground, even though intelligence agencies say a Kashmiri terrorist affiliated to the Jaish-e Mohammad had carried it out. Finding evidence would be crucial, since Pakistan has denied any possible link to the attack. A chain of evidence would also be essential for the international community, in view of India's pitch to blacklist Jaish chief Masood Azhar under the rules of the United Nations.
The terror strategy of not leaving any evidence behind had started in 2016. The first that followed this method was the attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Uri, in which 18 soldiers were killed. There was no trail. For the last two-and-half years, the National Investigation Agency has been struggling to establish the identity of the terrorists from Pakistan who carried out the attack.
Officers of the state police who have been associated with the investigations into the current case say there is very little evidence. Today, the National Investigation Agency said they have been able to piece together the remains of the car to find its make and engine number. The identity of the owner has also been found, but the investigators said 19-year-old Sajjad Bhat is on the run and has joined Jaish.
So far forensic experts, however, have been unable to isolate any remains of the suicide bomber. Under the circumstances, it would be difficult to establish in court that Adil Ahmad Dar, 19-year-old local terrorist, had carried out the attack.
Intelligence agencies had zeroed in on Adil Ahmad Dar on the basis of a video he uploaded online. In the video, he is heard saying, "After a year's wait, I have got the chance to do what I joined the Jaish for," as part of an anti-India rant.
Before today's breakthrough on use of car, Investigators had a little clue on the February 14 terror strike, in which 40 soldiers lost their lives. So far all the information was based on videos released by Jaish-e Mohammad. One of these was the video of a similar attack in Afghanistan, accompanied by a warning about Kashmir. The other is the video on Dar.
Jaish has also accepted responsibility for the attack, pointing to Dar as its suicide bomber.
The claim has puzzled investigators. Police sources said indoctrinating anyone to become a suicide attacker takes years of work. But in this case, there has been zero intelligence that a local man was preparing for a suicide attack. Plus, the entire Jaish leadership in the Valley has been wiped out over the years in various encounters with the security forces, security forces have said.
The use of RDX as the explosive in the car that drove into the convoy has thrown up more questions.
Officers say RDX has not been used in any terror attack in the Kashmir Valley for at least eight years. In 2018, there have been 13 IED attacks in Kashmir. These usually involve the use of ammonium nitrate and gelatine sticks - material available locally.
While the nature of the explosive used this time suggests involvement of Pakistan, what further baffles the investigators is how such an enormous amount of RDX could have been brought into the Valley, keeping intelligence agencies entirely in the dark.
Forensic experts estimate at least 20 kg RDX was used in the attack.