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NATO forces’ M4 gun falls in JeM hands in Kashmir

Umar and Kamran had allegedly played a key role in planning and executing the fidayeen attack in which the Kashmiri suicide bomber Adil Dar killed 40 paramilitary personnel at Lethapora, Awantipora, on the Jammu-Srinagar highway on February 14, 2019.

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US-made M4 sniper Masood Azhar

New Delhi, Sep 18 : The UN Security Council (UNSC) designated international terrorist and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) founder Maulana Masood Azhars three nephews, each carrying a US-made M4 sniper, have been killed in three different encounters in Kashmir in the last three years.

A number of US-made M4 sniper rifles, used by Nato forces to fight terrorism in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, have fallen in the hands of Azhar’s guerrilla group, JEM, in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Released by India in exchange for the IC-814 hostages at Kandahar in December 1999, Azhar has been designated as an international terrorist by the UNSC in May 2019, after years of sustained resistance by China.

The M4 carbine is extensively used by the US Armed Forces and is replacing the M16 rifle in the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps combat units as the primary infantry weapon and service rifle. The M4 is also capable of mounting the M203 and M320 grenade launchers.

The M4 has semi-automatic and three-round burst firing modes (like the M16A2 and M16A4), while the M4A1 has semi-automatic and fully automatic firing modes (like the M16A1 and M16A3). It is essentially a lighter and shorter variant of the M16A2 assault rifle with a telescopic stock.

Three of Azhar’s nephews-Talha Rashid, Usman Ibrahim and Umar Farooq-have died in different encounters with security forces in Kashmir in the last three years. All the three were in possession of M4 rifles which were recovered, along with other arms and ammunition, from the sites of the gun battles. Till now different variants of the Russian-made Kalashnikov or AK-series rifles have been the principal assault weapon with the Kashmiri and the Pakistani militants in J&K since 1988.

The M4 has entered the scene amid apprehensions that sections of jihadist guerrillas could shift their base to Kashmir after a compromise between the Americans and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Dilbag Singh, DG, J&K Police, puts the number of the militants with M4 rifles around six, claiming that ten US-made snipers had been seized. “Five to six JeM commanders are active with M4 rifles but they are well on our radar,” he said. However, some senior officials of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), who have been associated with the investigation of high-profile terror attacks in the last two years, maintained that 10 to 15 JeM commanders were currently armed with M4 rifles.

“The commander of every JeM module of 3-4 militants has one M4 but they have not been able to cause much damage to the police or the security forces,” said an NIA officer.

During investigations, the NIA has learned that as many as 60 JeM militants had infiltrated into Kashmir through the international border in Jammu between June 2017 to January 2020. They sneaked into the Samba and Hiranagar areas in groups of three to five. An unknown number of infiltrators is said to have entered through one underground tunnel which has surfaced early this year. According to the officials, each group carried 3-4 AK rifles and one M4 rifle.

Three of such groups were intercepted at Jhajjar Kotli, Bann Toll Plaza and Jawahar Tunnel on the 265-km long Jammu-Srinagar highway. Each time the modus operandi was to board a waiting truck in Samba or Hiranagar and reach the JeM’s hideouts in Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama districts in southern Kashmir.

On June 20, an unsuccessful attempt was made with the help of the Pakistani Rangers to deliver arms and ammunition, including one M4, two magazines and 60 rounds of ammunition, besides seven M67 grenades, by an 18-kg drone. The quadcopter was, however, spotted by the BSF observation posts in Hiranagar and shot down. The consignment was supposedly for a Pakistani terror commander Ali Bhai, based in South Kashmir. Officials believe this was the first such attempt.

A three-member group of JeM infiltrators, travelling by an arranged truck, was intercepted by security forces near Jhajjar Kotli on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, on September 12, 2018. All the three militants were killed. Their driver and another civilian facilitator were arrested.

In an identical chance encounter at Bann Toll Plaza on January 31, another group of three JeM infiltrators was killed on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. Their truck driver and one civilian facilitator were arrested.

On September 9, the J&K Police intercepted a vehicle at Jawahar Tunnel on the same highway. One M4, one AK rifle and six Chinese pistols were recovered from the truck on the way to the valley from Jammu. The driver, along with a terror facilitator, both residents of Shopian, was arrested.

Talha Rashid, son of Masood Azhar’s sister, was killed in an encounter on November 7, 2017 at Aglar Kandi in Pulwama district. His Pakistani associate Mehmood Bhai and a local militant, Waseem of Drabgam Pulwama, were also killed in the same encounter. Rashid’s M4 was among the other arms and ammunition recovered.

In the middle of 2018, security agencies learned that JeM had deployed four of its commanders, each armed with an M4, from its training centres in Pakistan. Sameer Tiger, one of the most wanted militant commanders with one M4, made his own photograph viral on the social media.

Later that year, Azhar’s second nephew (the son of his brother), Usman Ibrahim alias Haider, was known to have attacked and killed three security personnel in separate sniper attacks in 10 days in the Tral-Awantipora belt. He was killed, along with an associate, in an encounter at Chankitar, Tral, on October 31, 2018. His M4 too was recovered.

Azhar’s third nephew Umar Farooq was killed, along with his Pakistani associate Kamran, in an encounter at Suthsoo Kalan village, bordering Budgam and Pulwama districts, on March 29, 2019. The recoveries included Umar Farooq’s M4 carbine. Umar and Kamran had allegedly played a key role in planning and executing the fidayeen attack in which the Kashmiri suicide bomber Adil Dar killed 40 paramilitary personnel at Lethapora, Awantipora, on the Jammu-Srinagar highway on February 14, 2019.

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Thinnest crowd, sans guest: Covid hurts RSS’ biggest event

Like other years, there were no ceremonial band playing or marches. Bhagwat simply offered his floral tribute to Hedgewar, RSS founder and did ‘Shastra puja’.

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Mohan Bhagwat RSS Chief

New Delhi: The foundation day of BJP’s ideological mentor, thee RSS on this Vijaya Dashami has been unique.

The Sangh’s single largest annual event that usually witnesses hundreds and thousands of cadres systematically assembling at the ground to listen to the Sarsanghchalak was missing.

In fact, to Bhagwta’s own admission, this year it was the thinnest crowd ever — apart from the day of its inception.

This time the RSS annual event that takes place on a sprawling ground in Nagpur, took place inside an auditorium where a handful of cadres were seated with adequate physical distancing, given the pandemic situation.

“This is probably the first time in Sangh’s history since its foundation day that a RSS Vijaya Dashami program has been organised with such a restricted low number. We have done this keeping in view the COVID protocol,” Bhagwat said at the outset.

While he paid tributes to the front line workers who lost their lives fighting the virus and urged all to be mindful of the persistent threat, one couldn’t help but notice that there was no Chief Guest this year. It was also done amid the pandemic in a stark departure from tradition.

Each year, some one of prominence is invited to lecture on this biggest annual RSS event. Former President Pranab Mukherjee created a row when he agreed to be the chief guest of this event in 2018. Last year, it was HCL’s Shiv Nadar. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, and Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari, Gen V.K. Singh were also among the other guests present at the address. However, 2020 was an odd one out when no one special was invited.

Meanwhile, given it was a small inside arrangement, the stage too was very small in comparison to the mammoth stage that is erected each year on the ground. Only 4 individuals, including Bhagwat were present on stage this time — all wearing a mask.

Only 50 volunteers were allowed inside the Maharshi Vyas auditorium this year. “We are all aware that this Vijayadashami the celebrations are restrained in terms of numbers. We are also aware of the cause. To prevent community spread of Coronavirus social gatherings are restricted,” Bhagwat said.

Like other years, there were no ceremonial band playing or marches. Bhagwat simply offered his floral tribute to Hedgewar, RSS founder and did ‘Shastra puja’.

Though, the event is being beamed live each year, it was the main source of dissemination of the Sangha’s message this year, given no media access was allowed.

The event was beamed live on Youtube, Facebook and Twitter. Above 42,000 viewed it through Youtube while nearly 23,000 saw it on the Twitter account of RSS. In fact, while beginning to address, Bhagwat also mentioned those who were joining online.

This is the Sangh’s biggest annual event where the Sarsanghchalak chalks out the broader agenda for the year to come. This time, Bhagwat spoke extensively on the pandemic, Chinese aggression and how India must counter it as well as push for ‘swadeshi’. He also spoke against pro-CAA protestors.

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Cities

Covid cases cross 8-lakh mark in Karnataka, 10k recover

Out of 1,00,511 tests conducted in a day, 17,729 were through rapid antigen detection and 82,782 through RT-PCR.

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Coronavirus in India

Bengaluru, Oct 25 : With 4,439 new cases in a day, Covid tally in Karnataka crossed 8-lakh (8,02,817), including 81,050 active cases, while 10,106 were discharged, taking recoveries to 7,10,843 till date.

“The death toll rose to 10,905, with 32 succumbing to the infection during the last 24 hours across the state, including 20 in Bengaluru, which increased its toll to 3,734 till Saturday,” said the state health bulletin on Sunday.

As epicentre of the virus, accounting for 50 per cent of the state’s cases, Bengaluru Urban district registered 2,468 fresh cases in the last 24 hours, taking its Covid tally to 3,25,773, including 51,672 active cases, while 2,70,366 recovered so far, with 6,759 discharged on Saturday.

Among the districts, Bengaluru Rural recorded 234 positive cases, Tumakuru 141, Mysuru 140 and Dakshina Kannada 139.

After Bengaluru, 415 were discharged from Hassan, followed by Mysuru 366, Chikkaballapur 233 and Dakshina Kannada 211.

Of the 939 patients in the intensive care units (ICUs), 432 are in Bengaluru hospitals, 61 in Ballari, 44 in Hassan and 38 in Chamarajangara district.

Out of 1,00,511 tests conducted in a day, 17,729 were through rapid antigen detection and 82,782 through RT-PCR.

“Positivity rate of the state has further declined to 4.41 per cent and case fatality rate to 0.72 per cent,” added the bulletin.

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India

Centre to seek Parliament’s nod for additional Rs 37k cr infra push

The second batch of supplementary demands for grants is generally presented during the winter session of Parliament.

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infrastructure sector

New Delhi, Oct 25 : Centre will seek the Parliament’s approval for additional spending of Rs 37,000 crore on infrastructure development in the second batch of supplementary demands for grant.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had earlier in the month announced that Centre’s capital expenditure budget for current fiscal has been increased by an additional Rs 25,000 crore from a level of Rs 4,13,000 crore provided for FY21.

Further, the Union government has also approved issuance of a special interest-free 50-year loan to states of Rs 12,000 crore for infrastructure development.

According to people in the know, the approval for these additional expenditure for infrastructure push will be sought from the Parliament through the second batch of supplementary demands for grants.

The second batch of supplementary demands for grants is generally presented during the winter session of Parliament.

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