A government school teacher-turned Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorist was arrested for allegedly carrying out multiple blasts, including one in a bus carrying Vaishno Devi pilgrims, with the intention to damage communal harmony and revive terrorism in the Jammu region, J-K Director General of Police Dilbag Singh said on Thursday.
The arrest of Arif, a resident of Reasi district, follows investigations into the recent twin blasts case at Narwal in Jammu. An improvised explosive device (IED) planted inside a perfume bottle was recovered from his possession, Singh told reporters in Jammu.
The Jammu and Kashmir police chief said this was the first time that such type of a bomb was recovered in the Union territory.
A special team of experts is inspecting the device, which could have been activated by pressing the spray button, Singh added.
Arif was allegedly working at the behest of his Pakistani handlers and admitted to his involvement in bombing the bus carrying Vaishno Devi pilgrims that killed four people and injured 24 others last May, Singh said.
He also accepted his role in an IED explosion in Jammu's Shastri Nagar area in February 2022 besides the twin explosions at Narwal on January 21 that left nine people injured.
"All the (ready-to-use) IEDs have come from across the border. He had received the drone-dropped consignment of three IEDs in the last days of December and used two of these at Narwal," Singh said.
Congratulating the additional director general of police (Jammu zone) and other officers for cracking the Narwal blast case within 11 days, Singh said it was difficult as the accused had burnt his clothes and shoes and even damaged his mobile phone in a bid to destroy evidence.
"Arif is a government employee who joined as a 'Rehbar-e-Taleem' teacher in 2010 and got regularised in 2016. He came in contact with LeT operative Qasim, also a resident of Reasi and presently operating from Pakistan, through his maternal uncle Qammerdin in 2019. Qammerdin fled to Pakistan a long time back and settled in Karachi.
"He (Arif) had received money after successfully carrying out the blasts. It is shameful that he was involved in terror activities despite being on the payroll of the government. He will lose his job and will face the law for his actions," the police chief said.
Singh said Arif planted the two IEDs at Narwal on January 20 and triggered the explosives within a span of 20 minutes the next day with the intention to cause heavy damage to security personnel after the first blast.
"Security forces followed SOPs (standard operating procedures) after the first blast, thus averting possible casualties as the second blast was much more powerful. The first explosive was carrying 750 grams of material while the second one was packed with 1,000 grams of explosives," he said.
Referring to Arif's admission of planting two bombs in a bus carrying Vaishno Devi pilgrims on May 13 last year, he said the police had almost worked out the case following the busting of the LeT module led by Talib Shah but "there was one missing link that who actually planted the IEDs in the bus (that went up in flames shortly after leaving Katra base camp for Jammu)".
"He revealed that he had planted two sticky bombs, each weighing 450 grams, beneath seat number 3 of the bus, above the petrol tank to ensure maximum number of casualties," Singh said.
The senior official said Arif used a timer device to cause the explosion in Jammu's Shashtri Nagar area on February 22 last year, a case which had remained a mystery with no clue on the perpetrators.
The arrest of Arif is a "major breakthrough" as his interrogation revealed that he was asked to do a recce of crowded areas and religious places, apparently to choose the next target and shed innocent blood, the police chief added.
"Anyone directly or indirectly involved in terror activities will not go scot free. They will face the law and nobody will be spared," he said and asked people to continue supporting the police in foiling the nefarious designs of anti-national elements.
Singh assured the people that the police are fully alert to the threats and conspiracies hatched from across the border.
"We are for the safety and security of the people and remain awake to ensure you sleep better. There will be no shortcoming in tackling the terror threat," he said, adding, "People are extending full support and we are thankful to them."