New Delhi: A year after 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed in a suicide blast in Kashmir’s Pulwama district, security and intelligence experts continue to flag concerns about security forces being soft targets in such conflict zones.

In response to the Pulwama attack, India bombed Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror camp in Pakistan’s Balakot.

Intelligence inputs indicate an unabated inflow of radicalized, homegrown terrorists. “In the last two months alone, we have flagged the movement of at least 35 terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. We have also tracked some key meetings between terrorists, planning to conduct attacks in India," said a senior intelligence official, seeking anonymity.

According to intelligence inputs, reviewed by Mint, terrorists have been instructed to carry out grenade and fidayeen (suicide) attacks in Shopian, Badgam and Pulwama districts of Kashmir, and in Bathindi and Narwar in Jammu, besides the sensitive Sunjwan Army camp, which was attacked by JeM terrorists in February 2018.

The intelligence inputs come close on the heels of encounters between security forces and terrorists at Pulwama, Shopian and Awantipora in south Kashmir. The last major terror strike in Kashmir was on 14 February 2019, when 40 CRPF personnel were killed by a JeM suicide bomber – Adil Ahmad Dar -- in Pulwama.

Security officials have said, even as India has been stepping up the heat against terrorist outfits, there is little that can be done to prevent radicalization.

“There are fresh inputs that indicate that there will be a spike in terror attacks after February. We are constantly stepping up the vigil – both within Kashmir and along the Line of Control, but the actual radicalization and recruitment takes place in the absolute interiors, especially in south Kashmir or Srinagar’s Batamaloo and Nowhatta and some patches in Baramulla," said a central government official, familiar with the developments in Kashmir.

The Pulwama terror attack had revealed a colossal intelligence lapse. While the JeM suicide bomber began his groundwork a year ago, his activities raised an alarm among intelligence units in the valley. Despite adequate intelligence that suggested a strike, a convoy of 78 vehicles carrying more than 2,500 CRPF personnel was rolled out from Jammu to Srinagar.

Officials had said it was “foolhardy" to transport troops “in bulk in a semi-war zone".

Defence experts said, regardless of the kind of preparation that India undertakes to fortify its internal security, security forces would continue to remain “sitting ducks".

“There is nothing you can do. Convoys are the easiest targets. Even if forces are transported by air, you cannot prevent the fact that a terrorist or a group may be waiting in the forest near an airfield and that convoy will be struck down, the minute the aircraft takes off. As such, there is very little you can do to prevent attacks on convoys," said Lt. Gen (retd) H.S. Panag, former Indian army officer and defence expert.

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