NEW DELHI: The NSG lost an experienced counter-IED officer to a deadly booby trap in the Pathankot terror attack as the terrorists used an innovative technique whose antidote was not included in the Standard Operating Procedure of the elite counter-terror force.
After losing the "brilliant" officer Lt Col Niranjan EK, the NSG has now decided to revise its Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for defusing bombs and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), a senior NSG official said here today.
"Recently, we had an incident at Pathankot where a grenade was used as a booby trap and unfortunately NSG lost one of its brilliant officers. In this case, everything that was there in SOP was followed but the terrorists used an innovative thing which somehow was not included in the SOP and that perhaps led to this unfortunate incident.
"We are now revising our SOPs. We have learnt our lessons and we will incorporate(new things). The scope for improvement is always there. No one can say that the SOP or the procedure which is prescribed right now cannot be improved. Once we have this experience, we keep on updating these SOPs," NSG chief R C Tayal said while addressing an international seminar on combating the menace of IEDs.
The NSG Director General (DG), however, maintained that Niranjan, an experienced and highly trained Commanding Officer of the Bomb Disposal and Detection Unit, had followed all laid down SOPs while sanitising the bodies of the four terrorists, killed in the attack on IAF base on January 3.
"He (Niranjan) followed the SOP," said the top National Security Guard (NSG) commander, as he vouched for his competence and professional acumen. According to senior officials of the NSG bomb data centre, Niranjan was probably the only officer who had a wide-range of experience in conducting back-to-back anti-sabotage and sanitisation checks on live bombs, including defusing IEDs found in Patna and Bodh Gaya in Bihar, Bangalore and Burdwan in West Bengal.
The DG said a grenade that took the FBI-trained officer's life was concealed very cleverly by the terrorists. The brave officer had sanitised two bodies and was working on the third when the fatal blast claimed his life.
While the DG said the NSG had taken along a "plenty" of bomb suits to the IAF airbase under attack, Niranjan was wearing only a bullet-proof jacket as per the SOP. SOP says only the person who uses the line-hook method to check for a booby trap on a terrorist's body wears a bomb suit while others, wearing bullet-proof jackets, stand at a safe distance before getting the go ahead to personally frisk the body from the first person.
"The same SOP was followed on the body of third terrorist. It was first approached by a person wearing bomb suit, but the booby trap on his body did not go off. This is actually what happened. "In fact, it was a tightly packed grenade in the ammunition pouch which went off in his (Niranjan's) right hand after its lever was pressed, the moment it was taken off from the terrorist's body," Tayal said.
Niranjan's lungs got punctured due to impact of the blast and he died before being taken to a hospital. Addressing the seminar, the DG said threat of IEDs to the lives of civilians and security forces personnel is going to be "very high" in India and other parts of the world as this technique of killing and maiming people is a "no risk, high return" activity on the part of the terrorists and has also become their preferred weapon.
He said the modern-day terror mind was learning such techniques from easily available resources over the internet. "In India, we live in a dangerous neighbourhood where terror incidents have increased exponentially and this region has become a terror hot-spot. I am saying this because there is hardly any day when we don't have an IED blast or a terrorist incident in our neighbourhood. When I talk about neighbourhood, I am including the area which are influenced by ISIS menace," he said. Noting that last year there were 268 incidents of IED blast worldwide in which 117 people were killed, the NSG chief said "In India, we recognise that the IED threat is going to continue and it is also going to be very high and probably in other parts of the world too."
He said as state police forces are the first responders in the incidents of terror attacks or when an IED is found in a busy place, the NSG has trained a number of them and have tried to address the "gaps" in their capacities.
Tayal praised the role of multiple agencies during the Pathankot attack, saying all inputs and intelligence information was shared with them. Chief guest of the event former Meghalaya Governor R S Mooshahary said procuring material for IEDs was no longer a difficult task. He said sometimes it is very difficult to detect these devices.
"It's (IEDs) use is not limited to terrorists these days, even protesters are also using these devices," Mooshshary, a former chief of the NSG and the Border Security Force said addressing the seminar.
He added some of the old mechanisms may not be able to detect the new generation devices and there is no fit-for-all situation.
"Technology in the hands of revengeful hearts can be used for mass destruction," he said, adding the NSG is not the first responder in case of an IED explosion but it is the professional responder.
Calling such bombs a "rag-tag device", he said former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was a casualty of the IED expertise of LTTE.