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) militant 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.
Doval, who has been a target of militant 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 February 6.
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. Malik, who is the chief of a Jaish front group, Lashkar-e-Mustafa, was arrested in Anantnag, and arms and ammunition were found in his possession.
The people said that Hidayat told interrogators that, on May 24, 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 also admitted to his Jammu & Kashmir Police interrogators that he conducted reconnaissance of the Samba Sector border area in the summer of 2019, along with Sameer Ahmad Dar, who was arrested on January 21, 2020 for his involvement with the 2019 Pulwama attack.
According to details accessed by HT, Malik provided a Hyundai Santro car for a suicide attack in May 2020, and confessed that he and three other Jaish militants — Irfan Thokar, Umar Mushtaq and Rayees Mustafa — looted ₹60 lakh from a J&K Bank cash van in Shopian on November 2020.
The Jaish operator also 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 added that Malik told interrogators extensively about his background – that he joined the Hizbul Mujahideen on July 31, 2019; worked as an over-ground worker for the Jaish before that; shifted to Jaish in February 2020; and then raised a front group in August that year.
NSA Doval has a running battle with Jaish chief Masood Azhar — as Joint Director, Intelligence Bureau, he interrogated Azhar after his arrest in India in 1994, and also escorted him to Kandahar airport after the IC-814 hijack in 1999. (Agency)