Jammu and Kashmir: Amid internet shutdown, terrorists increase use of satellite phones

WION Srinagar Nov 29, 2019, 08.28 PM(IST) Written By: Ieshan Bashir Wani

File photo Photograph:( AFP )

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Sources in the Jammu and Kashmir Police told WION that during the Gandarbal operation last month, one Thuraya satellite phone was recovered from the terrorists.

In a significant development, security forces have found that terrorists are using satellite phones to communicate. Internet and prepaid mobile connectivity in Kashmir remain shut since August 5, ever since the central government revoked the special status for J&K residents. 

Sources in the Jammu and Kashmir Police told WION that during the Gandarbal operation last month, one Thuraya satellite phone was recovered from the terrorists and later a satellite phone location was detected in the Anchar area of Soura in Srinagar. 

In September, the Indian Army had launched a massive operation in the mountains of Gandarbal, killing two terrorists and later arresting two overground workers. The operation continued for almost 20 days. 

A senior police officer, while confirming the recovery of a satellite phone, told WION that "a satellite phone was recovered from the terrorists in Gandarbal district of central Kashmir after they were eliminated."

"It seems that terrorists are adapting the old communication tactics," the top police officer said while speaking over the phone, adding that "a location was traced last week around Soura area of Srinagar, leading security forces to launch a search operation".

On November 17, a cordon and search operation was launched in the Anchar area of Soura after the satellite phone location was traced by the counter-insurgency group in the valley. 

The police source said that these modern satellite phones are internet-enabled which connects directly to the satellite from any location, unlike the common mobile phones that connect to the terrestrial mobile sites. Authorities had provided high-ranking officials with satellite phones when communication was completely shut in Jammu and Kashmir. 

However, the use of satellite phones isn't new in Kashmir. After terrorism erupted in Kashmir, in the absence of mobile communication, terrorists used Thuraya satellite phones to speak with their counterparts and operators based in Pakistan and in the valley. 

Due to the partial mobile communication shutdown and the internet gag, terrorists have been finding it hard to communicate. After mobile internet became widely available in Kashmir, terrorists were using mobile applications which are hard to detect by the anti-terrorism groups. This led to a decrease in the use of satellite phones.

Several such types of equipment have been recovered from time to time especially from the groups attempting to infiltrate the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan. The communication shutdown had also affected the counter-insurgency operation in the union territory leading to a few encounters. 

On September 19, the J&K police had arrested a foreign national who was illegally using Thuraya satellite phone in Ladakh.