- Investigators have managed to ID vehicle from jagged pieces of metal
- Van was owned by 19-year-old Sajjad Bhat, resident of Bijbehara
- Believed to be a Jaish member, he had bought it 10 days before attack
The explosive-laden vehicle used for the suicide attack in Pulwama was a mini-van whose owner is on the run, investigators said today. The van, filled with at least 20 kg of RDX, was driven into the 78-vehicle CRPF convoy by a suicide bomber of Jaish-e Mohammad on the afternoon of February 14. The blast that followed had killed 40 CRPF men.
Given the scale of the blast there were doubts if the forensic experts would be able to zero-in on the vehicle. All that remained of it were jagged pieces of metal.
The National Investigation Agency, which was probing the case, today said it managed to piece together the remains and make out not only the make of the vehicle but its chassis number and registration number.
The Maruti Suzuki Ecco van was first bought in 2011 and changed hands seven times since. It last buyer was Sajjad Bhat, a resident of Anantnag's Bijbehara.
The purchase was made just 10 days before the terror strike, the agency said. But the investigators drew a blank when they raided his home on February 23.
Bhat, 19, was a student of a madrasa, Siraj-ul-Uloom, in Shopian. Sources say he disappeared on the day of attack and today his photo, holding guns, surfaced on social media, declaring his entry to Jaish.
Bhat is seen as the second underground link to Jaish, whose top order has been wiped out in the Kashmir Valley in encounters with the security forces over the last few years.
Under the circumstances, Jaish's claim -- accepting responsibility for the terror attack and pointing to 19-year-old Adil Ahmad Dar as the suicide bomber -- had puzzled investigators.
Police sources said indoctrinating anyone to become a suicide attacker takes years of work and in this case, there was zero intelligence that a local man was preparing for it.