NSG Chief: New Threat From Sticky Bombs
THE WEEK|January 30, 2022
As IEDs pose a major threat, providing foolproof security to VIPs during campaign season will require adequate training, right equipment and seamless coordination between agencies
Namrata Biji Ahuja

The Punjab Police was still licking its wounds following allegations that it failed to provide adequate security to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the poll-bound state, when it was tipped off about a bomb threat near Amritsar.

The Special Task Force was alerted on January 14 that an improvised explosive device (IED) was about to go off at the Attari market area, barely two kilometres from the border with Pakistan. Troops were alerted; a bomb disposal team rushed to the spot and deactivated the 5kg device. The IED contained 2.7kg explosives, 1.3kg iron balls, two iron containers, three electric detonators, one timer switch and seven batteries.

As the country moves into yet another election season, security agencies are worried about ensuring the safety of not just the VIPs, but also the common man, as newer threats continue to emerge. Punjab goes to the polls on February 20, while elections are also being held in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa.

BJP national general secretary Tarun Chugh has asked the Punjab government to issue a white paper on border security in view of the serious security threats ahead of assembly polls. He said the Congress government was trying to push its lapses “under the carpet” and was “playing with national security in the border state”.

The alarm being raised over the prime minister’s security breach might have given politicians a stick to beat each other, but rogue drones flying in from Pakistan with guns, grenades, and IEDs masked as tiffin boxes are making life difficult for security forces.

“The challenge is not only about securing the VIPs who are on the move during the election season, but also tackling multiple threats to convoy movements, crowds and gatherings,” said a senior police officer from Punjab.

Sticky bombs are the latest IED threats. Magnetically attached IEDs (MAIEDs) or sticky bombs were used by the Taliban in Afghanistan to conduct targeted strikes by attaching them to vehicles. “Most of these IEDs are sophisticated in nature and indicate the role of state or quasi-state entities,” said M.A. Ganapathy, director general of the National Security Guards (NSG), in an exclusive interview with THE WEEK.

At least 16 IEDs have been recovered by security forces in the Punjab and Jammu sectors in recent months. Most of them are planted in tiffin boxes with magnets that can stick to targets and cause maximum damage. These IEDs come assembled from across the border—air dropped in many cases—and have made their way even into a court complex in Ludhiana, where one exploded on December 23.

Another device was found and defused by the NSG in the Ghazipur flower market in Delhi on the same day the Attari bomb was found. In Delhi, the IED was on a timer, but the NSG’s bomb disposal squad was quick to neutralise it. However, the sophistication of the device was remarkable, with little chance of failure. So far, the NSG has not found any links between the MAIEDs used in Afghanistan and the sticky bombs being smuggled into Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab.

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