It had been six months since the Pulwama attack that killed 40 CRPF jawans on February 14, 2019, but Rakesh Balwal, the Jammu and Kashmir head of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) tasked with the probe, was getting nowhere.
Intelligence agencies had no clue that the mastermind of the attack, Masood Azhar’s nephew Umar Farooq, had crossed over into Kashmir or that he had been killed in an encounter just a month after Pulwama. So what led the NIA joining the dots? Interestingly, it was Umar Farooq’s love for two thing—sportswear, and a Kashmiri woman.
The case unraveled thanks to a photograph, reveals a new book by author and journalist Rahul Pandita who interviewed investigating officers from the NIA and J&K police to weave together the story of how the Pulwama plot was cracked.
Balwal tells Pandita that it was while looking at a photo of two terrorists slain in March that he got the gut feeling that the well-groomed baby face in Adidas clothing wasn’t some ordinary guy.
The police told him that the young man was called Idrees bhai. Balwal was also told about two confiscated phones, an iPhone and a Samsung S-9 Plus, that the police found too damaged and, hence, useless.