A security dragnet has been placed at the office and residence of National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval after a disclosure by an arrested Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist that he conducted reconnaissance at Sardar Patel Bhawan, and other high-value targets in the Capital on the instructions of his Pakistan-based handler, according to people familiar with the matter.
Ajit Doval, who has been a target of terror groups operating from Pakistan since the 2016 Uri surgical strikes and the 2019 Balakot attack, is one of India’s most protected individuals. The possible threat to the NSA has been conveyed to security agencies and the Union home ministry, said the people cited above who asked not to be named.
Officials in Delhi and Srinagar said information about a detailed video recce of Doval’s office was revealed during interrogation by Jaish operative Hidayat-Ullah Malik, a Shopian resident who was arrested on 6 February.
A case ― FIR number 15/2021 under Section 18 and 20 UAP Act ― has been registered against Malik at the Gangyal police station in Jammu. Police arrested Malik, who is the chief of a Jaish front group, Lashkar-e-Mustafa, in Anantnag, and arms and ammunition seized from his possession.
The people said that Hidayat told interrogators that, on 24 May 2019, he took an Indigo flight from Srinagar to New Delhi to record a video of the NSA’s office, including the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) security detail there, and passed it on through WhatsApp to his Pakistan-based handler. The handler was described simply as “Doctor”.
Malik then returned to Kashmir in a bus. He confessed before Jammu & Kashmir Police that he conducted reconnaissance of the Samba Sector border area in the summer of 2019, along with Sameer Ahmad Dar, who was arrested on 21 January 2020 for his involvement with the 2019 Pulwama terror attack.
Malik provided a Hyundai Santro car for a suicide attack in May 2020, and confessed that he and three other Jaish terrorists ― Irfan Thokar, Umar Mushtaq and Rayees Mustafa ― looted Rs 60 lakh from a J&K Bank cash van in Shopian on November 2020.
The Jaish operator disclosed names, code names, and phone numbers of 10 of his contacts in Pakistan, including the handler. J&K Police have passed the details to security agencies. Two of his contacts were later killed in Shopian and Sopore.
Officials said that Malik had told interrogators extensively about his background. He said he had joined the Hizb ul Mujahideen on 31 July 2019. He worked as an over-ground worker for the Jaish before that. He moved to Jaish in February 2020 and then raised a front group in August last year.
Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar’s animosity with NSA Doval is also quite personal. As joint director, Intelligence Bureau, Doval had interrogated Azhar after his arrest in India in 1994, and also escorted him to Kandahar airport after the IC-814 hijack in 1999.