Female suicide bomber alert heightens tensions in J&K

Extraordinary security marked the Republic Day eve in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday as security forces were put on high alert following an intelligence input that a teenaged female suicide bomber may carry out an attack in the state.

Ever since armed violence started in the state in the late 1980s, securing various venues for Republic Day ceremonial parades has been a challenge for the security forces.

This year, however, vigil has been taken to new heights in Jammu and Srinagar where the main Republic Day parades are to be held.

Governor N.N. Vohra will hoist the national flag and take salute at a ceremonial parade at the Maulana Azad stadium in Jammu.

In Srinagar, the venue of the main function has been shifted from the Bakshi Stadium to Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium as renovations are being carried out at the former venue.

All entry points into the twin capitals of Jammu and Srinagar were sealed and entry permitted only after thorough frisking of travellers and checking of vehicles.

Such exercises were carried out round the clock in Jammu city while lesser number of people ventured out of their homes in Srinagar due to heightened tensions.

A red alert sounded by the police said a female 'fidayeen' terrorist had sneaked into Jammu and Kashmir.

A senior police officer has said such intelligence inputs keep coming around Republic and Independence Day celebrations.

"We have to verify such inputs, but at the same time, an input like this cannot be brushed aside," the officer said.

The other worrying thing was that a vehicle reportedly without a number plate had managed to enter Srinagar in the last two days as per reports of the intelligence agencies.

These two worrisome developments have added to the tension and that is perhaps the reason why markets and roads witnessed fewer shoppers, motorists and pedestrians in Srinagar on Thursday.

"Securing this year's venue of the main parade in Srinagar has been a taxing mental and manual exercise. Since the venue is new, loopholes had to be carefully identified and plugged.

"Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium does not have a boundary wall and for this reason we had to park bullet-proof bunker vehicles almost bumper to bumper outside the stadium to create a security wall.

"Further, buildings and structures around the venue had to be identified and secured to ensure that the function passes off peacefully," a top police officer said here.

Sniffer dogs, CCTV cameras, security force domination of sensitive installations and VVIP routes have traditionally marked the celebrations of the country's Republic Day in Kashmir.

This year, the security arrangements have been augmented further due to reports that the militants were planning to make their presence felt.

As usual, separatists have asked Kashmiris to observe January 26 as a "Black Day" to attract international attention to the Kashmir dispute.

--IANS

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(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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