Presence of large number of satellite phones worries forces in J&K

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The presence of a large number of iridium satellite phones has become a major cause of worry for the central security forces in Jammu and Kashmir.

Sources in the security set up, quoting intelligence inputs, said that the presence of satellite phones has gone up significantly in J&K, and it has been noticed in recent times that these communication channels get activated simultaneously in the Kashmir Valley and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

The presence of large number of satellite phones also worries the forces as the Amarnath Yatra will be commencing from June 30, and this time over seven lakh pilgrims are expected to take part in the annual pilgrimage event.

To provide a safe and secure passage to the large number of pilgrims this year, the security agencies have been working to fill all gaps in the security structure in J&K, sources said.

The sources said that the presence of satellite phones in Jammu and Kashmir was first noticed in February this year when eight phones were activated in the Valley and PoK, assuming that a communication was exchanged between terrorists hiding in J&K and their handlers in PoK.

Now it seems that the number has gone up to over two-dozen and the ultras are changing their locations after using this communication system, making the identification of the locality difficult, the sources said.

The government’s technical wing, National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), has been working to identify and block the devices in the Indian territory, a government official said.

He also said that the NTRO is capable of identifying the locations of these communication devices and is working on the technical specifications to block them.

While these communication devices can be tracked with the help of some equipment, they are largely difficult to trace as they do not route their signals via mobile towers, but directly through satellites.

Security agencies have confirmed that these satellite-based communication systems were left behind by the US forces in Afghanistan and these might have been transported to Jammu and Kashmir along with arms and ammunition.

In the second week of February, intelligence inputs revealed that eight iridium satellite phones were activated in the Valley, which were earlier used by the US forces in Afghanistan.

These satellite-based communication systems were first activated on February 13, when eight such phones were activated simultaneously, a day ahead of the third anniversary of the Pulwama terror attack of February 14, 2019.

The sources also said that these communication sets were seen active once in Budgam, Bandipora, Ganderbal, Kupwara and Pulwama, while in Baramulla, it was seen active twice. They were together active from 10.30 am to 3 pm on the same day.

The sources in the security set up also confirmed that these communication sets were active in Bandipora, Baramulla and PoK, just opposite the Uri sector, on February 14.

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