RPG-7, recovered in Kashmir gunfight, baffles security grid

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After a gap of nearly two decades, a shoulder-fired explosive warhead – the Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) was recovered from the militants in south Kashmir, alerting the counter-insurgency agencies.

The use of the weapon, which has the potential to damage extensively used armoured vehicles, marks a significant escalation in the region where militants were running short of arms till recently. 

The government forces recovered the RPG launcher and its two projectiles from a militant, who had attempted to attack a convoy of Border Security Force in the southern Kulgam district. The militant was later killed during a firefight and identified as Usman, a foreigner. 

Usman, a Pakistani, the police said, had infiltrated at least six months ago and was a close associate of Jaish-e-Mohammad’s senior commander Ismail Alvi who was killed last month.

“The recoveries indicate how big a strike the militants were up to … after a long time RPG was [used by militants],” said Vijay Kumar, the Inspector General of Police Kashmir Zone.

It is for the first time in at least the past decade that an RPG has been used by militants to carry out an attack even though few such rusted weapons had been recovered during search operations.

The RPG-7 recovered from the slain militant in Kulgam is a shoulder-fired missile weapon that launches rockets equipped with an explosive warhead.

Shesh Paul Vaid, a former police chief, said the recovery of such RPGs is “a matter of concern and it can inflict a lot of casualties”. “It is a matter of concern as to how these weapons come inside. It should be investigated,” he said. 

The recovery also assumes significance as militants in the region had been short of arms supplies and many militants killed during the last two years were equipped with pistols only.

The flow of weapons into the Kashmir valley has been significantly reduced as a multi-tier anti-infiltration grid along the Line of Control has come up during the past decade. 

In September last year, GOC of 19 Infantry Division, Baramulla, Major General Varinder Vats had said there was a “halt in supply-chain” which has left militants “high and dry”. 

“We have been fairly successful in thwarting the infiltration attempts and also in terms of smuggling weapons and war-like stores … they [militants] are not getting the big weapons or AKs, so they are making to do with pistols, it affects their attempt,” the army had said last year.

In 2020, 210 automatic rifles and 228 pistols were recovered from the sites of gunfights and search operations, many of them during failed smuggling attempts.

In the past two years, the government forces also succeeded in recovering several weapons hauls that were being infiltrated into the region.

K. Rajendra Kumar, another former police chief of Jammu and Kashmir, said the RPGs had been used by militants during the earlier years of insurgency.

“But that (had) ended, I am not sure whether it was 2005 or 2003 (when) supplies had ended. Now it looks like they are again getting supplies,” Kumar said.

He said the recovery of the RPG in the Kulgam gunfight was “significant”. “By using small weapons they have to come close [to carry out any attack] but by RPGs they can carry out an attack from distance,” he said.

“It should be investigated where it has come from, how it has come inside. It is also to be seen if they are old and have been put into operation now,” he said.

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